Engineer queried Black Saturday power line

Engineer queried Black Saturday power line

20 May 2013

published by

Australia — A senior engineer questioned why a device to reduce the pressure on a power line was not fitted to the line that sparked one of Victoria’s fatal Black Saturday bushfires, a court has heard.

Former SPI Electricity senior lines engineer Anthony Walley said he noticed there was no vibration dampener attached to the power line, which failed and caused the Kilmore East blaze, while visiting the site shortly after the February 2009 bushfire.

Mr Walley told a class action over the fatal bushfire he asked a colleague why the device had not been fitted and was told “not to worry about it”.

He said a vibration dampener could reduce the load on a power line and extend its life.

Mr Walley, who no longer works for the company, also said it was concerning all maintenance data on SPI Electricity assets for the years before 1999 was missing.

He said it was important to know the history of an electricity asset, such as a power pole or line, to predict how much longer it could function.

The remaining SPI Electricity database detailing the condition of its assets was limited, according to Mr Walley.

“The records that were kept were not as complete as they could’ve been and in some areas were lacking,” he told the Victorian Supreme Court.

Victorian woman Carol Matthews is leading a class action of more than 10,000 people suing SPI Electricity, claiming it was negligent in failing to maintain power lines that sparked the Kilmore East blaze.

The Kilmore East bushfire killed 119 people and destroyed 1200 homes.

The group is also taking action against the CFA, Victoria Police and the Department of Sustainability and Environment over their failure to warn communities.

All defendants deny the allegations and are fighting the claims.

The trial is expected to run for most of the year.

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