Southern California breaking news and trends

San Bernardino copper thief dies from electrocution witnessed by horrified neighbors


A would-be copper thief died horribly over the weekend after he attempted to steal copper wire from an electrical relay station in San Bernardino, authorities said.

The L.A. Times reports that Michael Morga Garcia, 26, died Sunday evening of injuries resulting from electrocution after he apparently tried to strip copper wire from a Southern California Edison electrical relay station located on Stoddard Avenue near Rialto Avenue.

Garcia was electrocuted at about 2 a.m. Saturday morning, authorities said, and CBS reports that the shock was so severe he caught on fire. Neighbors nearby say they heard a boom and Garcia screaming, and attempted to help him as he burned. He was transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, where he died a little after 8:30 p.m. yesterday.

The San Bernardino Sun reports that Garcia received a 33,000-volt shock, and that the incident knocked out power to 14,000 SCE customers nearby.


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.