Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Bad: Electric Arc Jumps from Power Line to Fire Department Tower Ladder Truck

Video shows position of fire department tower ladder truck near power lines where at least three firefighters were injured in Kentucky while helping band members conduct an ALS ice bucket challenge on the campus of Campbellsville University.

Two Taylor County firefighters were seriously injured from an electric shock Thursday while on an assignment to help the Campbellsville University band conduct an ALS ice bucket challenge.

The firefighters were moving the apparatus into transport mode or lowering the bucket after the event when an electric power arc occurred with nearby power lines that struck the bucket or firefighters Tony Grider and Alex Quinn directly. The ladder apparatus did not come in direct contact with the power lines. Two other firefighters, Steve Marrs, 37, and Alex Johnson, 28, were able to bring the apparatus to the ground. Marrs has been a firefighter for 11 years, Johnson for three years.

High voltage lines can cause an electric arc to jump a certain distance via an electric arc to another object or person, which in this case was electricity flowing through air. Air is normally not very conductive, but if the voltage is high enough or humidity conditions are right, an arc will occur.

A failure at a ComEd substation in Elk Grove Village causes arcing on January 24, 2014.

Video of arcing on a swing set between Gibbons Avenue and Forrest Avenue south of Miner Street in Arlington Heights on September 15, 2013. An electric arc could potentially jump off a chain link fence and strike a person standing too close to the chain link fence.

Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette identified the most seriously injured firefighters as Tony Grider, 41, and Alex Quinn, 22. Grider is a 16-year veteran of the department. Quinn is a part-time firefighter.Both are being treated at University HOspital in Lousiville. Grider was listed in critical conditino, but Quinn’s condition was upgraded from serious to fair condition.

No students were injured in the incident.

The ice bucket challenge is an activity that involves dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head or dumping it on one’s own head to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Usually a video is sent to someone’s attention on Facebook, where the sender takes the challenge recorded on video, and then sends the video to another person that is challenged to repeat the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Ironically, the idea of a cold water challenge was initiated by firefighters to raise money for the Special Olympics. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation popularized the “Cold Water Challenge” in early 2014 to raise funds as an unsanctioned spin-off of the polar plunge most widely used by Special Olympics as a fundraiser. On May 20, 2014 the Washington Township, New Jersey fire department posted a video on YouTube participating in the “Cold Water Challenge” with fire hoses. Members of the department that participated in the challenge with fire department equipment were subsequently punished for utilizing fire department equipment without permission.

On Saturday, February 26, 2011, The Cardinal documented a Polar Plunge event at Twin Lakes (Salt Creek Park District) in Palatine for The Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge to support Special Olympics.

The ALS version of the challenge has become a viral pop culture phenomenon including everyday people on Facebook, and including celebrities and politicians. The New York Times reported on August 17, 2014 that people had shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between June 1 and August 13 and mentioned the Ice Bucket Challenge more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29.

Police in Kentucky say two firefighters were seriously injured when their fire truck’s ladder got too close to a power line as they helped college students take part in an ice bucket challenge.

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