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Causeway Death From Downed Power Line

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Courtney Campbell Causeway

Tampa Police say Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Gregory Patterson was killed after hitting a downed live electrical wire while riding his bike on the Courtney Campbell Causeway early Wednesday morning. It happened around 6:40. 

A medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, but police say it appears he was electrocuted.

Tampa Electric is investigating the incident. While there was a rainstorm in the area late Tuesday, Tampa Electric spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said there were no reports of outages in the area from residential or business customers.

Jacobs said there's no easy answer to what a live power line looks like and it could easily be mistaken for something else.

"Sometimes if a power line is down, it might flash or crack or crackle or snap and make some noise or move around. But that is absolutely not always the case," Jacobs said. "Sometimes it's just a line on the ground and you have no way to know if there's electricity in it."

And depending on what that electric line is used for, it could be an inch in diameter or even smaller.

Jacobs says that is why you should treat every line like it's connected to a live power source. Call 911 or your power company to report it and stay far away, at least 30 feet, because your life may depend on it.

According to Tampa Police, Patterson, 47, was working this past Saturday when calls came in reporting a capsized jet ski near the Gandy Bridge. Three riders were reportedly struggling in the water against a strong current.

Patterson, who'd been with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission since 2012, responded to the scene on a watercraft with fellow officer Richard Dearborn while Tampa Police Air Service asisted.

Patterson dove into the water to help the victim who was struggling the most. Eventually, all three people were transferred to the rescue watercraft and returned to shore for treatment.

Tampa Police indicate that they were nominating Patterson for a Department lifesaving award before he died.

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