Eskom liable for cyclist’s burns

Picture: Alaister Russell

Picture: Alaister Russell

An investment consultant who sustained severe burns when his bicycle hit a low hanging live power line has won the first round of his battle for compensation against Eskom.

Judge Selby Baqwa ruled that Eskom was 100% liable in terms of the Consumer Protection Act for the injuries sustained by Derek Halstead-Cleak in the August 2013 accident.

Halstead-Cleak, of Melrose in Johannesburg, was riding his bicycle in the veld in the Nooitgedacht area with friends when he came into contact with a low hanging live power line spanning the footpath.

He sustained severe full-thickness electrical burns to his forehead and burn wounds to his chest, arms and both thighs.

A fellow rider, Vincent Langlois, testified that he had heard a scream and saw Halstead-Creak, who was riding at the back, being electrocuted by the overhanging line.

Langlois and other riders received severe electrical shocks when they touched the injured man.

After Halstead-Creak’s clothes had already started burning, his fellow cyclists were able to pull him free using the rubber tyres and handlebar grips of his bicycle to release him.

He fell to the ground and the flames were put out by rolling him over. He only started breathing on his own after fellow cyclists started CPR.

Eskom employees inspected the scene of the incident a few days later and immediately switched off the power line and dismantled the lines.

Eskom admitted it was responsible for the power line and generated the electricity involved, but contended Halstead-Creak was not a “consumer” who suffered a loss and had no claim under the Consumer Protection Act.

Judge Baqwa dismissed Eskom’s defence, saying the argument that an innocent third party who who suffered a loss could not claim redress because he or she was not the actual consumer of a product would be contrary to the spirit and purpose of the Act.

He said there could be no doubt that the electricity which caused Halstead-Creak’s injuries constituted “goods” for the purposes of the Act.

Logic dictated that Eskom could not introduce a source of danger and thereafter seek exoneration when injury was caused as a result, he added.

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