You never know what’s going to happen next at this job.
One night I was dispatched to a simple non-injury traffic collision. Should be easy, right? What could go wrong? I walked out to my car, started it up and headed toward the call like normal.
I started driving eastbound when I saw two bright flashes in the sky. The first thing that came to mind was that someone had just struck a pole. Most people would think a transformer blew, but I’m a little more pessimistic and assumed a pole had been struck by a car, because it happens a lot where I work. It’s like the poles in my city are giant magnets and the cars get pulled into them like a tractor beam pulling in a space ship in Star Wars.
A minute or two later, I came up to a railroad crossing that had its red lights flashing and arms down across the street. I sat there for a little bit, but there was no train. I figured the railroad arms had something to do with the flashes I had seen in the sky. I knew of a way to get around the railroad crossing so I made a U-turn. I then took a side street so I could get to the next major east/west street because I still needed to get to my call. This particular street I was about to travel on was in an industrial area and had two turns.
I drove into the pitch black of night, with the only light coming from my head lights, which reached out to the darkness ahead of my car. The street turned left and then right before straightening out again without a car in sight. I cruised at about 30 miles per hour when I suddenly saw something hanging across the road. It looked like a ghostly gray rope that had been strung from one end of the street to the other. But it wasn’t a rope or something I imagined, it was an electrical wire! The wire was only five feet off the ground and it had blended into the night like a camouflaged fish in the ocean.
I slammed on my brake as hard as I could and said, “S@$#%$!!” My patrol car then struck the wire, which then got stuck underneath my light bar. I pushed as hard I as could on the brake, but the car wasn’t stopping as fast as I wanted. As it slowed to a stop, I could feel the tension from the wire on my car. The car was stopping, but it just felt different. At the time I did not know the top of the wood pole had just snapped also.
When the car finally stopped, I saw a wire that was now wrapped around the top of my car to the bottom like a Christmas present. The only difference was there wasn’t a red bow on top of this package and there was no Santa Claus.
My driver window had been down and I was surprised how big the wire was. Maybe it looked bigger because it was only inches away from my head. The wire went straight across the middle of my window, which meant I couldn’t crawl out even if I wanted to. Not that I would’ve because electricity should be respected and feared at the same time. I looked over at the passenger window and saw the same thing.
Of course, this was not exactly what I had been expecting when I took my detour. In fact, I never imagined this ever happening to me and it’s safe to say most people wouldn’t either. I needed to get on the radio and tell dispatch I was stuck, but this wouldn’t be a normal radio transmission. This sort of thing doesn’t happen every day and I started to wonder if it had ever happened to anyone.
I picked up the microphone and I had to make sure I sounded cool on the radio because that’s what guys worry about, right?
With nerves of steel (just kidding) I said, “784.”
“784, I just hit a wire.”
“Yes, a wire. I’m stuck.”
I gave my location and I asked for the power company to respond. A sergeant got on the radio and asked that the fire department respond also. I said to myself, “Good idea, but we better not need the fire department.”
Other officers arrived on scene, along with the sergeant. I think everyone wanted to see what I had been talking about. What a sight I must’ve been, sitting in my car with this electrical wire wrapped around me like a fly caught in a spider web.
About 30-40 minutes later, the utilities worker arrived and told me there was no more power going through the line. I had used the time wisely and wrote a report while sitting in the car. I might was well kill two birds with one stone.
The worker wanted me to back up a little, so I reversed a few feet and stopped when he told me to. He then used bolt cutters to cut the wire. The utilities worker then had me back up again so he could get the rest of the wire untangled from the rear tires.
There was a large warehouse across the street from the downed wire I had hit. This was a distribution center with trucks coming and going all the time. After I had gotten out of the car, a man identified himself as the driver of a semi truck and trailer that had collided into the pole. The driver told me he had been backing up to park along the west curb, which was across the street from his work. That was when he felt the collision and then that the power went out.
The driver, who was now a hit and run suspect, knew he had struck the pole and decided to move the truck to a different spot. The driver unhooked the trailer and left it. He then let another person drive the semi truck away to a different job. After the power went out, all of the workers from inside the warehouse went outside. He decided to blend into the crowd as he stood in the parking lot. He did not tell anyone about the collision, nor did he call the police about it either. A few minutes later I struck the wire. He claimed he had no idea the wire had been hanging across the street. I’m not sure if I believe him or not.
As for the car I was driving that night. The light bar had been damaged on top of the police car. The wire had also scratched and smeared the decals on both front doors. Not too bad considering what had just happened.
Immediately after it had happened, I felt safe because I had been in the car. But it was a weird feeling knowing I had an electrical wire wrapped around me and there really was no way to get out. Of course, this isn’t something most people have to worry about when they go to work. Up until that night, I never worried about it either.
This just goes to show you that anything can happen on this job.