A freak traffic accident January 27 involving a pickup truck and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. equipment caused the San Jose Police Department’s first death in the line of duty in 15 years.
Patrolman Robert A. White, 25, died after coming into contact with 12,000 volts of electricity while investigating the situation, he somehow was exposed to the current.
Police Chief Joseph McNamara, who visited the scene shortly after the accident, said it was difficult to determine how White came into contact with the electricity.
“We may never know what really happened,” McNamara said. “All we can say is that it looks like the current hit him and knocked him on his back.
“We’re talking about a tremendously powerful transmitter. He may not have even touched it.”
The equipment involved is called a pad-mounted sectioning switch, which is used to preserve some power if a blackout occurs in the surrounding area, a PG&E spokesman said. The switch, which controls the current, sits inside a 3-foot-square metal box that is mounted on a concrete stand.
The PG&E spokesman said the impact of the truck cracked the metal box, exposing a series of wires carrying 12,000 volts.
Chief McNamara called White a “fine officer, who was competent and quiet, but well-liked by his peers.”
White is the fifth San Jose police officer to die in the line of duty and the first since 19709. The bachelor, who had been on the force two years, also is believed to be the youngest.
Funeral services were held at the First Baptist Church of San Jose. Followed by interment at the Oak Hill Cemetery.