1 dead in accident at Deerfield Wind site

(Editor’s note: This story by Derek Carson was published in the Bennington Banner on April 19, 2017.)

SEARSBURG — One man is dead after the crane he was operating came into contact with high tension power lines at the Deerfield Wind project.

David Sprague, 59, of Windham, Maine, was pronounced dead at the scene on Putnam Road shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to state police. An autopsy will be performed by the office of the chief medical examiner.

The wind project, which will include 15 new turbines in Searsburg and Readsboro as well as over five miles of new roads, is being overseen by developer Avangrid Renewables of Oregon. The civil contractor for the project is Reed and Reed Inc. of Woolwich, Maine. A representative from Reed and Reed said that the company was aware of an incident but would give no further comment, including whether Sprague was an employee of the company. A representative for Avangrid declined to comment.

A representative from Green Mountain Power confirmed that they were asked to turn off the power to the area, and described the situation as “dynamic.” As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 30 GMP customers in Searsburg remained without power.

The Vermont State Police were assisted on scene by Wilmington Fire Department, Bennington Fire Department and Deerfield Valley Rescue, as well as the Bennington Rescue Squad.

Ground broke on the project, the first of its kind on National Forest land, in September, a month after the Vermont Public Service Board approved a conservation plan for the project, amending a certificate of public good granted in 2009. The event featured a speech from then-Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Avangrid has said the 30-megawatt project will produce enough energy annually to power 14,000 Vermont homes.

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  • waltermoses38

    I hope that Bill Christian is paying attention.
    Was the power turned off as a result of the accident? Usually you do not operate cranes near high tension power lines that are active. Way dangerous.

    • bill_christian

      Bill Christian is paying attention. A tragic accident. My condolences to the family and friends of David Sprague. My father worked in heavy construction all his life. I didn’t worry about him day-to-day because he seemed indestructible. But a two story fall sent him to the hospital for a few days, as did one car accident coming home from work. My family would have been devastated if we’d lost him.

  • Felicia Scott

    I wonder what the promoters and perpetrators of this “project” have to say? Their names are ex-governor Peter Shumlin, Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders, Peter Welch and his wife, Margaret Cheney who is at the tail end of her reign of terror at the Public Service Board. Are they proud of this Spanish and Canadian industrial wind project that put them first with destruction of public land in a national forest, that has resulted in the death of a man from Maine? Most of the workers at Sheffield, Lowell and now Deerfield were/are not from Vermont (so much for an industry promoting local jobs, right?), but one of them getting killed or injured makes it okay if they were not a Vermonter? We have a new governor now who has vowed to stop this violent insanity being perpetrated on Vermont and he should do everything in his power to put a halt to this final abusive slap at Deerfield.

    • robert bristow-johnson

      i hadn’t read (or heard) that anyone is thinking that it’s “okay if they were not a Vermonter.”
      i have mixed feelings about industrial wind. but, unless you can make a case that accidents like these are endemic to industrial wind, the accident is an unrelated story. it neither supports nor detracts from industrial wind.
      industrial wind energy is good or bad for orthogonal reasons, not because of this tragic death.

  • Kathy Leonard

    A tragic death occurs and the reporter feels obliged to put in a plug for how many houses might be powered by the project the deceased was working on.

    I find this insensitive and crass .. did Avangrid/aka Iberdrola ask you to include this tidbit, Derek Carson?

  • Tom Anderson

    Here is a tragic industrial accident, a life has ended, a family suffers a significant loss and as I read these comments I’m sickened. All three comments at the time of my post seem to ignore the tragedy and apparently attempt to politicize this workers death.

    This guy was doing a job and there was an accident. Does it really matter if you are for or against wind energy? Not to me, I just know somewhere a family is grieving – that should be our focus.

    If one was anti-oil drilling would you say the deaths and tragedy on the Deep Water Horizon were justified or use the opportunity of the announcement of the deaths and injuries to rail against fossil fuels? No, it was a horrible and traumatic disaster for all the crew and families – there is plenty of blame to go around there but compassion and empathy comes first for the victims and families.

    And as a side note – work is done on and near energized equipment and power lines all the time. “Waltermoses38” should really stop the casual and capricious comments that he clearly doesn’t know anything about.

    The number of houses that are provided power – I think that falls under the heading of a description, probably part of the “who, when, where, why” journalism thing I learned about in school – not sure I read that as a “plug”.

    Let’s have some compassion and empathy. Commenters – continue your fight against big wind, that’s cool, it just shows a lack of decorum to do it on this story.


    • Kathy Leonard

      You misread my motive and my sensitivity Mr. Anderson; it was what I read as an inappropriate commercial plug in this accident report that I objected to.

      No who, what or where was involved in that factoid.

  • lisalinowes

    This is tragic, inexcusable and not the first time a US worker has been killed at an Iberdrola site. This industry has been warned about its lack of safety protocols more than once and now another person is dead.