Loose power cable electrocuted Ashdon scientist in freak accident

Two teenagers were approached by a man in a car who asked them to get in
Two teenagers were approached by a man in a car who asked them to get in

A dangling 11,000 volt power cable was reported by a worried member of the public minutes before a top British scientist was electrocuted by it, an inquest has heard.

Dr James Kew, who lived in Ashdon, was out running and jogged into the live cable that was concealed behind a bush and hanging around 4ft from the ground.

Dr James Kew

Dr James Kew

Mr. Kew, 41, a biologist with GlaxoSmithKline, is thought to have died instantly from severe burns in the horrific accident in Newport, Essex in July 2012.

But paramedics had to wait two hours for the power to be safely isolated before they could treat him.

It is believed the discharge of electricity also set fire to the surrounding ground.

Essex Coroner’s Court heard how a member of the public reported the loose cable just minutes before the scientist’s death.

The inquest in Chelmsford was told UK Power Networks has a policy to only isolate a line if an engineer is on site.

But in the 14 minutes it took the power company to verify the location of the incident Dr Kew had come into contact with it and died.

The inquest heard that an engineer sent to fix the cable fault was there at the time of Dr Kew’s death.

Chartered electrical engineer John Steed said there had been two similar cases in the last five years.

He said different power companies had different policies for acting on reports of loose cables from members of the public.

He said three of the six companies he spoke to would switch off a line as soon as they verified a location with the member of the public calling.

But the hearing also was told the ceramic insulating cap on the cable had a defect which might not have been spotted even under close inspection.

Dr Kew, joined the Centre of Excellence for External Drug Discovery (CEEDD) in 2010 as a Director of Biology, which is a research department at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Before joining the CEEDD, he spent eight years working within GSK’s Central Nervous System (CNS) drug discovery unit, most recently as Director of Molecular & Cellular Biology within the Schizophrenia & Cognitive Disorders Discovery Performance Unit.

The inquest continues.