BY LEANN DILBECK –
Two Mena students are recovering after being electrically shocked at Bearcat Stadium Thursday evening.
The incident occurred on the southeast corner of the field, according to Mena Superintendent Benny Weston, and said they are incredibly grateful that it wasn’t much worse. “Our top concern is for those students.”
Assistant Superintendent Ken Marshall said that a 4th grade student, who had been attending a practice on the auxiliary field, came to the area and began swinging around the conduit and at one point, brushed by the fence and said it “shocked her.” Marshall said the student had burn marks on her hands.
Other students in the area heard the commotion and came to the area to see what was going on after junior high football practice. One of the players couldn’t believe the claims so to disprove he grabbed the conduit and the pole to the fencing and was shocked and immediately knocked to the ground unconscious. Marshall said EMS was immediately notified and he was transported to Mena Regional Health System for treatment and evaluation.
School officials immediately contacted Greg Aleshire of Aleshire Electric and he and his crew immediately shut off power to the area. The incident was caused from lights that were installed to illuminate the sponsorship signs on the visitor side of the field. Aleshire said the lights were supposed to be sealed to not allow water and said they were almost full. He has contacted the manufacturer but they have failed to return calls. “Oh, we will get to the bottom of this. My supplier, who has sold these same lights to many other customers, is just as determined as we are.”
Aleshire said they are unsure how many volts the student actually received. “We couldn’t get good readings because of the water. One said 30 volts and another said 100 (volts).” Aleshire said the lights themselves were 120 volts.
Aleshire, who is incredibly distraught over the incident, said he and his crew had done everything possible to ensure safety, their very reason for installing the conduit, knowing kids would be in the area. “There was no way we or anybody could have known that the lights were defective and had filled with water,” he said.
Weston said the district goes through a number of routine inspections by their own maintenance staff and outside sources, “I’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Aleshire echoed the same statement. “It was in all four lights. And these are not old…they were just installed in May.”
School officials commended the response of Aleshire Electric and recognized it was faulty equipment, “We know they do everything to the letter and they are just as upset by this as we are.”
While school officials and Aleshire are determined to get to the bottom of this, their top concern is for the students. Marshall said that the parents of the 4th grade student have had their daughter evaluated locally, and that she is doing well, but do plan to continue to monitor her condition and seek other medical opinions.
As for the junior high football player who was knocked unconscious, Marshall said he also has burn marks on his hands. “But he was ready to return to football practice the next morning. We’ve encouraged him to rest and give it the weekend and we’ll consider letting him return on Monday.”