State orders investigation into Detroit girl’s death

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — A state commission that oversees Michigan’s utilities said Friday it is requiring an investigation into a 12-year-old Detroit girl’s accidental death after coming into contact with a downed power line.

K’brianna Griffin was killed Sept. 7 after an inactive city power line became “energized” when it fell across a live DTE Energy wire, according to officials.

A medical examiner said the girl died at the scene and the death was considered an accidental electrocution, which Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has called an “avoidable tragedy.”

The Michigan Public Service Commission has directed DTE Energy to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident. The company must submit a report of its findings by Oct. 21.

Michigan Public Service Commission spokeswoman Judy Palnau said the commission has the authority to mandate investigations in certain circumstances, such as in the event of a death or the sluggish restoration of power by Lansing utility officials after a winter 2013 ice storm.

The Detroit investigation is meant to discover what went wrong and what can be done to prevent similar situations from recurring, Palnau said.

“That’s really the concern here: To find out what happened and to prevent it from happening again,” she said.

DTE officials also will meet with staff from the state commission “to develop a plan as soon as possible for the utility to eliminate similar situations throughout the city of Detroit where there may be a risk of abandoned lines that could become energized by a line carrying electricity,” according to a commission press release.

K’brianna was playing in her friend’s yard about four blocks from her home around 8 p.m. Sept. 7 on the 16700 block of St. Marys near Greenfield and West McNichols when she came in contact with the downed wire, officials said.

DTE workers first became aware of the downed line July 27, according to the commission’s order.

“On that date, a DTE Electric employee apparently personally observed the potentially hazardous situation, cordoned off the area with yellow caution tape, notified nearby residents and reported the situation to a DTE Electric dispatch employee who then notified DPLD (Detroit Public Lighting Department) about the condition of the downed DPLD line,” the order said.

Detroit’s electric grid is also “in the process of being upgraded” and in some cases “replaced in its entirety,” the order notes.