Freak accident while gardening kills British expat in Phuket

Published:  12 Apr at 6 PM
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A 53 year-old British expat living on Thailand’s Phuket island was declared dead at a local hospital after being electrocuted whilst pruning bushes close to an electricity supply box.

Paul Wilkinson was cutting back the fast-growing bushes outside his Phuket villa when he paused for a rest and leaned against his concrete garden wall, still damp from heavy rains. His daughter was inside the house and rushed out when she heard her father scream in pain, only to find him collapsed on the ground with his metal garden clippers resting on the wet wall near an electricity distribution meter box. She called neighbours to help, and an ambulance rushed him to the nearest hospital.

On arrival, a team of doctors attempted to revive him, but the 240 volt shock had stopped his heart and he was pronounced dead. According to local police chief Colonel Kanan, electrical leakage from the adjacent meter box must have seeped under or through the corner of the house wall, with the rain-dampened concrete acting as a conductor for the fatal surge. Local police are checking the wiring of the box for leakage in order to establish the cause of the fatal accident.

Sadly, accidents and deaths involving electrical installations are not rare in Thailand, as cables are not buried but strung alongside roads in a haphazard and obviously dangerous manner. Trees and bushes are allowed to grow over the cables in rural districts, with strong gusts of wind causing at best power cuts and at worst the collapse of live wires. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates highlighted the dangers in 2016, leading to a $1.2 million scheme by the government to bury the wires.

Unfortunately, the initiative seems to have been concentrated in Bangkok, with few results in the rest of Thailand’s population centres and tourist hubs and none at all in the country’s rural areas and smaller towns. Health and safety rules are still lax and rarely enforced, leading to numerous accidents, injuries and deaths. Wiring in homes can also be unsafe, as electricity supplies are rarely grounded and two-pin plugs and sockets are still the norm.
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