Lawsuit filed over electrocution death of hero wildlife officer

17 Feb 2017
Press Release

TAMPA, FL – The family of a man killed last summer after his bicycle came in contact with a live power line that had been down for more than seven hours has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against TECO Energy and related companies.

The lawsuit, filed by the Tampa law firm of Wilkes & McHugh on Feb. 16, 2017, in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, alleges that failures on the part of TECO Energy, Inc., Tampa Electric Company, Emera US, Inc., Emera Inc., and Emera US Holdings Inc. led to the untimely death of Gregory Patterson.

Patterson, known as a hero in the community, was a 47-year-old father of two young girls, former U.S. Navy, law enforcement officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, recipient of the FWC Lifesaving Award, recent nominee of a lifesaving award from Tampa Police Department, physical fitness activist, and triathlon competitor.

As part of his training, Patterson would ride his bicycle each morning on the Courtney Campbell Trail that runs parallel to the Courtney Campbell Causeway.  Several aboveground utility poles and wires run alongside the trail, including TECO Utility Pole No. 168040.

On the night of July 12, 2016, a storm passed through the area, causing power outages. Defendants received reports that street lights were out along the Courtney Campbell Causeway and at least one notification from a business located on the causeway that the business was also without power.

By the following morning, July 13, 2016, the energized power line connected to TECO Utility Pole No. 168040 in the 7600 block of the causeway was still down. This was a primary power line for the area and caused streetlight outages on and around the Courtney Campbell Causeway. It carried up to 7,620 volts and posed a lethal hazard for unsuspecting pedestrians and bicyclists on the trail.

Patterson was on his typical morning training ride about 6:40 a.m. when he came into contact with the live power line.

Tampa Police Department and Tampa Fire Rescue responded to an emergency call but could not approach Patterson until Defendants turned off the power. In the meantime, the electric shock was lethal. Patterson’s cause of death was ruled to be “high voltage electrocution.”

He left behind two young daughters, ages 12 and 14.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants breached their duty by failing to properly respond to calls and complaints of electrical issues, failing to warn the public about the danger of the downed line, and failing to secure the power line, among numerous other oversights.

The lawsuit is The Estate of Gregory Patterson, by and through Heather Hunter, as Personal Representative v. TECO Energy, Inc., Tampa Electric Company, Emera US, Inc., Emera Inc., and Emera US Holdings Inc.