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On July 14, 2021, a heart-wrenching accident unfolded at Lake Mary Pines farm in Bungundarra, near Yeppoon, on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast. Cody Smith, 25, suffered electrocution due to a dropped power line, which also resulted in electric shocks to five other workers. In the aftermath, Ergon Energy faced a $300,000 fine for the incident.
Details of the Incident
During a routine day on the pineapple farm, Cody Smith was electrocuted when a 4.3-metre high harvester he was working near came into contact or in close proximity to a power line. Investigation revealed that the power line, normally situated at 7.8 metres, had descended to 4.52 metres owing to a corroded stay wire on its pole. Additionally, the power pole was observed leaning slightly, but when corrected post-incident, the power line returned to its standard height.
This tragic episode also saw Nathan Stevens, Joshua Fritz, Simone Ronchi, Ian Page, and Raymond Sheriff experiencing electric shocks. All required immediate hospitalization.
On the date of the incident, the workers were involved in harvesting pineapples utilizing a tractor and the said harvester. Two days prior to the tragedy, some workers had already noticed the harvester’s unsettling closeness to the power line.
Court’s Decision and Impact on Victims
During the hearing in Rockhampton Magistrates Court, Magistrate Philippa Beckinsale drew attention to the victims’ impact statements, which painted a somber picture of the incident’s emotional and physical aftermath. Several affected individuals were diagnosed with conditions such as post electric shock myalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Recollections of the event continue to haunt the survivors, with many reporting persistent nightmares and distressing memories.
Ergon Energy previously admitted to a count of not adhering to a Category 2 electrical safety duty, thereby exposing individuals to considerable risk. While the company claimed unawareness of the looming danger, measures have been initiated to thwart similar future incidents. Recognizing the gravity of the event and its profound implications for Cody Smith’s family, Ergon Energy was slapped with a $300,000 fine, though no conviction was recorded.