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Crime & Justice

Man trying to steal copper electrocutes himself, knocks out power to thousands

A would-be copper thief was killed early Monday as he tried to clip a high-voltage cable next to the Metrolink tracks in Fontana, knocking out power to 3,000 customers in the process.

The San Bernardino Sun reports that 26-year-old Robert Buchanan was pronounced dead beside the tracks near Valencia and Lime avenues just outside the city. Authorities said Buchanan, a San Bernardino resident, was trying to steal copper wire from the site but didn’t notice it was a live wire he was clipping. He is believed to have hit the wire with bolt cutters at a little after 2 a.m. Monday.

Power immediately went out for 3,096 Southern California Edison customers, the Sun reports, but was restored to all but 94 customers within the hour.

Market forces have driven up the price of copper in recent years, leading to increased thefts of the metal by people with crowbars and wire cutters -- as well as blackouts everywhere, extra work for utilities and headaches for average people.

SCE “has been victim numerous times to theft of their cable because of the copper wiring and the fact that people are recycling it,” sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller told the Sun.