McCreary County man electrocuted while trying to steal copper

A McCreary County man was electrocuted early Thursday while trying to steal copper from an electrical substation, Sheriff Gus Skinner said.

Steve A. Stevens, 22, was pronounced dead at the East Kentucky Power station just south of Whitley City at 4:55 a.m., according to a news release and interviews.

Stevens and another man had taken copper at a nearby Kentucky Utilities substation and then walked to the East Kentucky facility to try to get more, said Skinner, who is investigating with detective David Sampson.

The second man, whom police have interviewed, said Stevens was electrocuted after he had pulled a wire from the ground and the second man cut it, Skinner said.

The second man took the wire and bolt cutters and fled, Skinner said.

Police found him later by way of an anonymous tip and recovered the wire and bolt cutters in bushes near the substation.

Police said they plan to charge the second man, but they did not release his name Thursday because he had not been arrested.

Firefighters found Stevens' body after responding to a report of a fire at the substation, Skinner said.

The death was the first at an East Kentucky substation in several years, said Nick Comer, a spokesman for the utility.

As the price of copper has gone up in recent years, East Kentucky and other utilities have faced problems with people trying to steal the metal from electrical facilities and sell it to recyclers.

The death underscores how dangerous those attempts are, Comer said.

"It's extremely dangerous to enter an electrical substation if you've not been trained and authorized to do so," Comer said.

About 1,700 customers were without power for an hour or so after East Kentucky shut down the substation to facilitate the investigation.