Wiltshire window cleaner loses forearm to 33,000-volt shock

image source, PA Real Life/PA

image caption, Jason Knight was airlifted to hospital where he underwent 17 life-saving operations

  • Author, Sarah Turnidge and PA Media
  • Role, BBC News, West of England

A window cleaner lost his left forearm and was told he may never walk after surviving a 33,000-volt electric shock.

Jason Knight, 34, from Westbury, Wiltshire, said he thought he was going to die when the deadly current jumped from an overhead cable to his cleaning pole.

He was in a customer’s back garden at the time and the force of the April 6 shock sent him flying seven feet (about two meters) across the lawn, leaving scorched boot marks in the grass. “It wasn’t until I looked at my feet, they were no longer wearing shoes, that I realized I had such serious injuries,” he said.

The Health and Safety Executive is investigating and in a preliminary report said the power cables met the required safety standards and were recorded as having been inspected in 2023.

The intense shock nearly ripped his heart out and he was rushed to Southmead Hospital, where doctors performed 17 operations to save his life.

Mr Knight, who lives with his wife Sara, 35, and their 18-month-old identical twin girls and seven-year-old daughter, had to have five fingers amputated due to severe burns.

He is still in hospital and described his thoughts immediately afterwards.

He said: “At that moment all I could think about was I was going to die.

“I couldn’t knock on the window, I couldn’t do anything.”

image source, PA Real Life/PA

image caption, Mr Knight had spent two years building his own window cleaning business before the accident

His father John Knight, 58, said: “He should be dead.”

Neither Jason Knight, who has owned his own window cleaning business for two years, nor the owner of the property knew that the power cables running across the garden were 33,000 volts live and there were no warning signs around the property.

Guidelines published on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website state that “voltages below 230 volts can kill and injure people” and that “approaching a live overhead line may result in an explosion”.

Flashovers occur when electricity jumps a short distance between an overhead line and a nearby object, either because it is not insulated or because the insulation has been compromised by water or other substances.

Jason Knight was close to finishing his job when he was “catapulted” through the air.

“I was very lightheaded and dizzy,” he said. “I just had to wait for someone to come find me.”

About 10 minutes later he was found by the customer who called 999.

image source, PA Real Life/PA

image caption, The intensity of the blast left scorched footprints of Mr Knight’s boot in the grass

Mr Knight’s father ran to the scene but was forced to watch through a hole in the fence as paramedics battled to save his son’s life.

John Knight said: “Obviously I went into shock and the pilot came over and put his arms around me and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll have him there in 10 minutes.’

The next day John Knight contacted Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSEN) and the HSE is investigating.

image source, PA Real Life/PA

image caption, An investigation into the safety of the power lines is currently underway

SSEN Distribution said through a spokesman that the company took its responsibility for public safety “very seriously” and confirmed that the last safety inspection took place in 2023.

They said that due to the HSE’s ongoing investigation they were unable to comment further, but continued to “fully support the HSE in its investigation”.

The spokesman added: “We were saddened to hear about the incident which took place in Westbury in April and our thoughts are with Mr Knight and his family at this very difficult time.”

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