Dump truck downs phone, internet and cable April 26

A truck with its box in full tilt was the culprit for the loss of phone, internet and cable on much of Manitoulin last week.

MINDEMOYA – Eastlink technical manager Brad Ham admitted to being a lot more relaxed on Monday afternoon than he was on Friday when a dump truck failed to lower its box and took out phone, cable and fibre optic lines, essentially shutting down a good portion of the communications network for the Central area of Manitoulin as well as south east Manitoulin including Wiikwemkoong and South Baymouth. Although no power lines were involved in the accident, hydro was shut down for a short period following the accident.

“Everything is pretty much restored now,” said Mr. Ham, whose crews were working feverishly until the wee hours of Saturday morning to ensure cable, telephone and internet was restored to the approximately 4,000 customers impacted by the outage.

The truck downed a couple of individual lines crossing Highway 540 in the vicinity of Addison’s OK Tire before hitting a major juncture at the intersection of Highway 551 and Highway 540.

“The good news in this was that nobody got hurt,” said Mr. Ham. “Not when it happened or after it happened during the repairs. Even the truck driver was very lucky that he didn’t hit any power lines. No telling what might have happened if that had been the case.”

Visibility in the area was poor due to heavy fog and for at least one driver the downed lines were a bit of a nasty shock.

“I was headed into Little Current for a medical appointment when I saw the line coming out of the fog,” said George Purvis of Gore Bay. “I was coming down the hill toward West Bay going to Little Current when I saw the line coming out of the fog. I thought to myself ‘I must be seeing things’ and then it hit me.” He wasn’t seeing things, one of the lines going to individual Eastlink customers had been stretched and was hanging down over the highway.

The low-hanging line hit the centre of Mr. Purvis’ windshield, looping around his truck mirror and pulling the mirror off. “There wasn’t time to get stopped, it came out of the fog that fast,” he said. Mr. Purvis advised another motorist to call the police before he continued on.

Repair crews work on fixing the downed M’Chigeeng lines on Friday afternoon. photo by Michael Erskine

“I came to the intersection where I finally caught up with the truck,” he said. “The back was still up and there were wires lying across the road.” Another motorist drove over the lines and Mr. Purvis realized that the wires were not live power lines. Until then he had no idea whether there was a lethal charge waiting in the lines.

“It was an unholy mess,” he recalled. “Wires were pulled down to the ground.”

“The security cam photo is very poor, but you can tell the hoist was fully up when he came barreling down the road,” said Blake Debassige, whose Kasheese Studios and home was directly across from where the dump truck came to a stop. “How did he not know?”

Mr. Debassige expressed admiration for the repair crew. “Those telecommunication repair men (Allstream) worked till after 1 am when I last looked out the window,” he said. “Many businesses lost a lot of money. Never mind no phone service for most of us till around 10 pm when I checked my phone. Will they be held responsible?”

OPP Community Services Officer Marie Ford noted that a 31-year-old male from M’Chigeeng was charged with having an over height vehicle under section 109 (14) of the Highway Traffic Act.