Portsmouth child pinned by dry-rotted power pole

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A 6-year-old boy was taken to a local hospital Saturday after a power pole fell on him in the 1200 block of Des Moines Avenue.

Portsmouth police said they got a call after 3 p.m. about a dry-rotted power pole that fell on Dontavis Porter. He was taken to the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters for treatment with a punctured lung and four broken ribs, according to family members.

10 On Your Side spoke with Porter’s mother and grandmother, Carolyn Britt, Monday afternoon. They said the child was playing outside at Britt’s home when the pole fell.

“A pole doesn’t just fall, and like I said, it was by the grace of God my grandson is still alive,” Britt said.

“The wind was blowing real hard and it just fell on him,” said Deja Savage, who lives across the street. “When they got it off him, he was just crying so much.”

The wood of the utility pole snapped at the base, crashed down on the little boy and pinned him underneath.

“They were trying to get it off him and stuff like that,” Savage said. “It was on his neck and back and head.”

Dominion Virginia Power immediately arrived at the scene to investigate.

“The most important thing we’d like to convey is that a pole falling is completely unacceptable, and we will get to the bottom of what happened,” Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley-Harris said. “We shared our concern with the family at the scene on Saturday and we were able to reach the boy’s mother [Monday] afternoon.”

Harris said Dominion has also offered Porter’s family it’s assistance.

“We are very sorry this happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the child and his family. We hope for a full and speedy recovery,” Billingsley-Harris said.

Porter’s mother told 10 On Your Side she is not sure if she will file a lawsuit. She said, right now, her son is her main focus.

“He’s got oxygen. He can’t play like a normal child anymore. I have to just be there, make sure he’s breathing and everything, that that one lung is getting air that he’s supposed to need.”

Billingsley-Harris confirmed there was some decay in the utility pole and that a support wire had been severed. However, she said a pole falling is extremely rare, usually because of severe weather. In fact, Dominion isn’t even aware of another incident like the one that happened Saturday.

10 On Your Side asked Dominion Construction Manager Lee Rozier how an incident like this could happen.

“It’s hard to speculate right now,” Rozier said. “Like I said, we are just beginning the investigation, but we’ll have plenty of pictures and plenty of eyes looking at this as well.”

There are 1.1 million poles in Dominion’s power system, of which only 400,000 are the same type as the one that fell on Porter. Some have been in use for 70 to 80 years without signs of decay, Billingsley-Harris said. The other 700,000 poles are newer and are not susceptible to decay.

Billingsley-Harris said Dominion inspects about 10 percent of the older type of power pole each year (40,000 out of the 400,000). She said the pole involved in Saturday’s incident was due for an inspection “between now and the next five years.”

“We’re doing a thorough investigation to find out how something like this could happen and to make sure it never happens again,” Billingsley-Harris said.

Dominion Power will be inspecting about 300 poles in Portsmouth over the next two months, Billingsley-Harris said. The company said the public can contact Dominion about any power pole problems by calling 1-866-366-4357.

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