The Investigators

Jul 28, 2014 1:15 AM by Matthew Schwartz

N4T Investigators: Outage outrage

Tucson - Lisa Lundstrom is outraged about what happened during an outage.

When Lundstrom awoke on July 12th, she saw what happened to her car the previous night: the grill was partly melted; there were burn marks and a lot of scratches. A truck nearby was also burned.

The damaged occurred at about 9 o'clock the previous night. The vehicles were in the parking lot at the La Sabre Apartments, on the east side near Speedway and Wilmot. A wooden Tucson Electric Power pole came down, its guide wires taking another pole down with it, the wires hitting the vehicles and sparking flames. The estimate to repair Lisa's Toyota Corolla is nearly $1900.00.

Lundstrom, a 49-year-old accountant, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "I think TEP should be responsible. It was their equipment that failed, their equipment that fell and caused the damage. My deductible with my insurance is a thousand dollars. So I'm out a thousand dollars for something that I'm innocent in."

Lundstrom says four TEP workers on the scene and later a risk management employee told her the damage was storm-related. TEP doesn't have to pay for vehicle damage caused by a storm. But there was no storm when the poles fell. The wind at the time was blowing at only seven miles per hour. So, did a weak pole simply collapse?

Apparently not, says Tep spokesman Joseph Barrios. "We don't know exactly what happened. There is some evidence to suggest that one of the poles was damaged by a vehicle."

Barrios says the pole that caused the damage was apparently was hit by a car or truck. An eight foot-high stump is all that's left of the pole now.

Barrios told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "It broke not at the base, but further up. And in a situation like that, the pole, because of where it broke and the manner in which it splintered, it appears as though, again, it's possible, that it was somehow tugged or pulled on by some external force. Generally speaking, we don't pay claims like that."

Barrios also says TEP has to be careful about which claims it pays, because pay-outs can lead to higher electric bills for everyone.

We asked Barrios, "What does it take for TEP to pay out a claim?" He said, "Each claim has to be evaluated individually and on its own merits, so it really depends."

Lundstrom says, "It really frustrates me, and I'm really disappointed that TEP has gone to this.

Barrios added, "At this point, you know, we've looked at the case, certainly we'd be willing to talk to other residents, or if new information comes up, we would review it."

Lisa Lundstrom asks, "When are corporations, as well as society, going to take responsibility for liability? Who's accountable?"

TEP says the person accountable is the unknown driver of the vehicle that apparently hit that pole. So at this point, Lundstrom will have to pay the $1,000 insurance deductable to get her car fixed.

TEP says anyone who sees damaged power poles or other company equipment needing repair should call customer care at 520-623-7711.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call our tip line, (520) 955-4444.

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