Electrocution blamed in Brooksville fisherman's death
BROOKSVILLE — As the afternoon wind blew, the gold spoon twisted and the bright yellowish-green chartreuse fluttered like long, flowing blond hair. By Monday, the bass fishing lure hanging from the power line was all that remained of the tragedy. It told a story.
Jason L. Reeves had gone fishing Wednesday in a small lake at Clover Leaf Farms, on the north side of Brooksville, where he lived with his girlfriend. The everyday fishermen there say that's the first time they had seen him. He caught two bass with his brightly colored spinner.
Reeves came back the next morning. The 32-year-old stood in the rain, an umbrella tucked in his back pocket, and cast again and again into the water. Joe Dahm, staying at his mother's house nearby, left about 9:30 that morning. Reeves was still fishing. When Dahm came back at 2 p.m., the lure was tangled in the 12- to 15-foot-high power line, and Reeves was gone.
At the time, no one knew he was dead.
Sometime Thursday, investigators believe, Reeves' metal lure snagged the 7,200-volt power line that hangs about 15 to 20 feet away from the bank. An electric current, investigators with the power company say, shot down through the soaked fishing line and shocked Reeves, causing him to fall into the water. The medical examiner hasn't determined the cause of death yet, but Brooksville police say the evidence points to electrocution.
"What are the chances of that ever happening anywhere?" said police Chief George Turner. "Everything just happened in the wrong way at the wrong time for him."
Reeves' girlfriend, Dawn Miele, looked for him around the lake late Thursday afternoon, neighbors say. She came back Friday.
Then, that evening, she saw something in the water.
"That's my husband, that's my husband, that's my husband," Miele screamed of the man authorities say she had soon planned to marry. She stared into the murky lake, and, hysterical, pounded her fists against the grass.
A group of men ran over to her. Miele, 53, pointed down, where she told them Reeves' body had just floated to the surface. They saw nothing.
"She was yelling and screaming," Dahm said. "We thought she was on drugs or drunk or something."
One of them waded into the water to ease her mind. He felt something touch his foot.
"He looked like he had stepped on a box of eggs," Dahm said.
The man told them he had found something that didn't feel like it should have been there.
A few minutes later, the body floated to the surface.
Dahm and Dean Chapman, who fishes the lake nearly every day, were both with Miele just after she discovered Reeves' body. The men were stunned by what had happened, and they questioned the report from Progress Energy that the current had passed through the fishing line and not the rod.
Both men had caught their fishing lures in the power lines before and neither had ever been shocked. Dahm even uses SpiderWire, the same type of line that Reeves used.
Dahm worked as a linesman and supervisor at a power company in Pennsylvania for 40 years. He doubted that even a soaked fishing line could have held enough current to kill someone. He also thought the rod was graphite, which could have carried a charge.
A technician for the power company, Turner said, tested the rod and determined it was not conductive; the wet line was, however.
Michael F. Stringfellow of Scottsdale, Ariz., has served as an expert witness in electrocution cases and has a doctorate in electrical engineering. He agreed with Dahm and Chapman.
Without knowing what the fishing line was made of, he couldn't make a definitive determination. But he said the materials typically don't carry a current well. Water can be conductive, he said, but it usually requires a high salt concentration.
Also, he said, if the pole was made of graphite, it would be highly conductive.
"You don't need a lot of current," he said. "It just stops your heart."
Posted by the St. Petersburg Times on 18 October, 2011 and the bassmaster on 19 October 2011