High Voltage Electrocution

Background

A freshman student was reportedly electrocuted by accessing an electrical vault located on the campus of a major university. An autopsy indicated there was an electrical entrance wound on the left ring-finger where high voltage electricity entered the body and electrical exit wounds in the left arm and left thigh.

Services Provided

Rimkus was retained to conduct an investigation to evaluate compliance of the electrical vault with applicable codes, the student’s means of accessing the electrical vault, and the manner in which the student’s body came to rest in its final position. Our scope of work included the following. 

  • Conducted on-site inspection of the electrical vault and surrounding areas.
  • Analyzed witness accounts on the day of student’s disappearance.
  • Examined interviews with maintenance and building engineering staff members.
  • Conducted detailed chronology of the student’s activities and events.
  • Diagrammed site plan, building access points, and travel-ways.
  • Evaluated the general configuration of the area surrounding electrical vault, as well as exterior accommodations for accessing vault.
  • Performed an in-depth examination of the design, construction, and installation of electrical vault, transformers, and electrical components, as well as applicable rules, regulations, and safety requirements.
  • Examined the design, construction, operation, and condition of the exterior doors, hardware-sets, and locking mechanisms leading to the vault. 
  • After the FBI examined the vault door hardware-set for evidence of tampering or damage, Rimkus analyzed and tested the hardware-set to determine adequacy of design, adequacy of installation, and the amount of force that would be required to pull it open while it was locked and the bolt was fully engaged. We then tested the hardware-set with the bolt fully disengaged.
  • Analyzed student’s route to final position, wounds, body position, and manner of electrocution due to high voltage.

National Practice Leaders

Western Region Property Division Manager

Dirk E. Smith

Ph.D., P.E., ACTAR

Senior Vice President, Forensic Division