Alex N. Wiggs rescued Lumis C. Coats from electric shock and burning, Wilson Mills, North Carolina, February 2, 1937. Standing on a cross-arm on a pole 43 feet above the ground, Coats, 35, lineman foreman, extended a stick having a steel pincer at the far end toward a wire that was three feet above the cross-arm and three feet from the pole. The wire was charged with 66 thousand volts of electricity. Instantly there was an arc, Coats’s clothing catching fire; and Coats fell backward, his safety-belt holding him to the pole. He slid down the pole until his legs were over the cross-arm astride the pole, and his head hung down with his back against the pole. He was unconscious, but his right arm swayed at times within six inches of a wire that was suspended 28 inches below the cross-arm and three feet from the pole. A similar wire was suspended 28 inches below the cross-arm three feet from the opposite side of the pole. Supported on the pole by his safety-belt and climbing-spurs, his head being almost level with the cross-arm at the moment of the accident, Wiggs, 28, lineman, was blinded momentarily by a ball of fire that followed a ground-wire down the pole. Having the thought that Coats’s contact had caused the current to be shut off, and believing the current would be turned on again in five minutes, Wiggs descended until he was clear of the wires, swung around the pole, climbed to Coats, and pulled Coats’s right arm farther from the wire. Coats’s arm slipped from Wiggs’s grasp, and Wiggs again grasped his arm. Raising Coats to a sitting position on the cross-arm and tying one end of a long rope, which hung over a cross-arm above them, to Coats, Wiggs released Coats’s safety-belt and swung his legs from the cross-arm; and men on the ground lowered Coats by means of the rope. Meanwhile Wiggs’s overalls were burning at the back of his leg. Wiggs guided Coats as he was lowered; and noting increasing pain at the back of his leg, Wiggs hurried to the ground and extinguished fire on his overalls. The act had required about three minutes, and the current was turned on six minutes after it had been shut off. Almost all of the clothing of Coats was burned, and he died nine days later. Wiggs sustained a burn on his leg and was fully disabled six weeks.
36357 – 301736357-3017