Crime & Courts

Theft of copper wire suspected in Greenville power outage

Duke Energy said an “attempted theft of copper wire” may have been the major cause of Tuesday’s power outage that impacted up to 15,000 customers.

A variety of places in Greenville had outages, ranging from parts of downtown to North Main, Cherrydale and White Horse Road, police and other agencies said.

“There are signs that the main damage appears to be caused by an attempted theft of copper wire,” said Ryan Mosier, a Duke Energy corporate spokesman in Greenville.

Most of the power had been restored.

Master Deputy Jonathan Smith, a Greenville County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said investigators were called to a Duke substation at 901 Peace Street at 11:20 a.m.

He said Duke employees said they saw someone fleeing from the substation’s fenced-in area near West Washington Street.

The person was described as about 20 years old, 5-feet,10-inches, with “dirty blonde hair” wearing a blue T-shirt and work boots, Smith said.

He said authorities believe that he took a piece of metal “that was copper-coated,” about 12 feet long, and valued at $10.

Mosier said copper is used to ground electrical equipment. Copper “theft is dangerous and a major safety concern,” he said.

In response to the incident, he said the company is researching ways to thwart such thefts by installing cameras, modernizing protective fences and other means.

“The bottom line is that we’re trying to make certain that people don’t do this,” he said. People die all over the country from attempts such as this, he said.

Mosier said if anyone sees someone loitering or doing something suspicious near a power station that they should call 911 or police.

“It’s dangerous business,” he said.

The Westin Poinsett Hotel was without power for about an hour, from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., a spokeswoman said.

Dispatchers were reporting that traffic lights on Rutherford Road and along Main Street were out.

Early in the day, Pete Brooks, a Duke Energy spokesman, said there was a problem with a relay station, which feeds power to several substations.

“That’s the reason it was so widespread,” he said.

He said there was “damage to the ground wire” at the station.