SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Sarasota man took his dog out for a walk when suddenly it dropped dead. Turns out, it was electrocuted after walking over a metal pull box lid.
The family now has a warning for others.
Back in the spring, Lynn and Debbie McDermott were looking for a Great Pyrenees when they immediately were drawn to Charlie. He was in a litter of nine, but he had the shape of heart in the fur on top of his head. It was love at first sight.
Soon enough, the neighborhood loved him too.
“Charlie brought a lot of love and joy. He was our home. He made this a home for us and our kids and our family, anyone that came into our home, they just, it was Charlie,” said Debbie McDermott.
Neighbors would frequently come over to the house just to visit the dog.
Great Pyrenees are known as protectors and that sadly rang true on Saturday night.
After a rain shower, Lynn took Charlie out for a walk on Dade Avenue. Charlie collapsed right as he stepped onto a metal pull box lid at the intersection with Fruitville Road.
“He just started convulsing and shaking,” described Lynn.
“I put my hand down to try and grab his tail and my hand touched the top of the grate and it jolted me and at that moment I knew he was being electrocuted.”
Lynn carefully moved Charlie.
“He was foaming, started to foam at the mouth and at that time I knew it was pretty much too late,” he said.
Lynn called 911 and despite efforts to do CPR, Charlie died.
The box contained wires for a nearby light pole and the city of Sarasota says a burned wire had made contact with the metal lid.
The City of Sarasota released a statement which said in part,
“Upon inspection, the metal pull box lid for the FDOT lights had become electrified. The power was de-energized, and it was determined there was a burnt wire underground in the pull box that had come in contact with the metal lid. From the street view, there was no indication of a faulty system. The wire has been repaired along with grounding the metal lid, and staff are performing precautionary safety inspections on other boxes in the vicinity.”
City spokesman Jason Bartolone explained that many newer pull box lids are made with fiberglass or concrete. The older ones were made of metal
“We estimate there are about 500-600 of the metal pull box lids within the City, about half belonging to the City and about half, like the one in question here, FDOT’s. We look for opportunities to replace the City’s metal boxes with concrete or fiberglass kinds whenever possible and as sidewalk improvement projects arise,” said Bartolone.
News Channel 8 reached out to FDOT. The department said in response,
“FDOT was just recently made aware of this. The Department will work with our partners at the City of Sarasota, who maintain the lighting in that area, to get more information about the incident and determine if any future actions need to be taken.”
The McDermotts said Charlie died protecting a neighborhood that loved him so much.
“He not only saved my life Saturday night, possibly he also saved the life of children and kids in this neighborhood who loved to play in the rain and in their bare feet,” said Lynn.
“He was sent to us for a reason, he was sent to this street…to protect me and someone else that night.”
“He’s an angel and he’s a hero to us now… His story lives on. Charlie’s legacy lives on to help from this happening to a child,” said Debbie.
The McDermotts are hoping this story inspires change, so that antiquated and potentially dangerous items like these metal lids are replaced.