Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials are reminding Angelenos to never touch downed or dangling power lines, or anything or anyone in contact with them, as the department settles a $38 million lawsuit over the fatal 2021 electrocutions of a father and daughter who came into contact with a downed power line.
The settlement comes more than two years after the Jan. 25, 2021, deaths of Ferdinand Tejada, 53, and his 20-year-old daughter, Janine Reyn Tejada, outside their Panorama City home.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family members of Ferdinand and Janina Tejada,” the LADWP said in a statement Monday. “The loss their loved ones have experienced is unfathomable. While nothing we do can bring them back, serious failures contributed to this tragedy, and we have committed to reform and major improvement to LADWP’s pole inspection and maintenance program.
“At the direction of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, LADWP has fully reviewed its pole inspection and maintenance program and has developed a comprehensive corrective action plan.”
The Tejada family’s suit alleged the agency did not properly maintain the pole that contributed to the two deaths.
According to reports at the time of the tragedy, Ferdinand Tejada went outside when he heard a “loud pop” at the family’s home in the 14700 block of Tupper Street and was electrocuted. His daughter went to his aid and was also killed. The elder Tejada’s wife, a nurse, called 911 and was told to stay inside until emergency crews arrived, or she could meet the same fate as her husband and daughter.
Both Ferdinand and Janine died at the scene.
Public contact with downed wires as a result of faulty, damaged or aged equipment in the city remains extremely rare, according to the agency.
In the event of a downed power line, LADWP has other pieces of advice to stay safe:
— If a power line falls on your car, stay in the car and wait for help. If you have to get out, make sure you don’t touch the metal parts of the car and the ground at the same time.
— Stay away from metal fences. A power line could be down that is out of sight.
— If there is damage to the connection from the power pole to your house, shut off the main switch or shut off the fuse switch in the electrical box.
— Report any downed power lines by calling 1-800-DIAL-DWP (1-800-342-5397). If someone is in danger, call 911.
According to the LADWP, the pole and crossarm inspection program that failed to properly inspect and identify needed repairs to the equipment behind the Tejadas’ home has been fully overhauled.
“All inspections are now made in compliance with state regulations and standards, according to strict timelines set by regulators,” the agency said.
Meanwhile, the LADWP said, crews are also currently working to clear the backlog of “Priority 1” repairs identified through its inspection program. It is expected that temporary or permanent repairs to all equipment in need of urgent attention will be made within the next three weeks, according to the agency.
As of Friday, crews had identified about 779 priority repairs remaining to be completed, the LADWP said.
City Councilwoman Traci Park issued a statement following the settlement announcement, saying the department is delivering letters and door-hangers to notify residents and businesses who may be impacted.
“This work will be conducted over the next two weeks and may involve repairs or replacement of electrical distribution equipment attached to the pole, high voltage wires and attachments or replacement and repair of the pole itself,” Park said in a statement.
Councilman Tim McOsker, meanwhile, said he was troubled about the conditions of LADWP power poles.
“As a municipal utility, LADWP has the responsibility to self-regulate and ensure the maintenance of these poles, yet our city utility allowed 1,600 poles to become dangerous,” McOsker said in a statement. “This is a time to be transparent and move quickly; we need DWP to map and immediately show where these high-risk power poles are located.”
“We already saw how the condition of the poles can be fatal, Angelenos shouldn’t be left wondering if they’re safe because of DWP’s aging infrastructure.”
The Board of Water and Power commissioners and LADWP’s general manager have mandated daily reports on the progress of repairs and will be receiving weekly updates on compliance with the deadlines set forth in the corrective action plan, the LADWP said.
“While priority repairs are of highest concern, there remains a backlog of nonurgent, nonpublic safety related repairs that will be completed within the prescribed regulatory time frames until the program backlog is cleared and kept up to date,” the LADWP said.