Stoning incident ‘disgraceful’ - Paisley

NIE engineers repairing a fault in an underground electricity cable in Ballykeel were stoned by youths and forced to abandon work last Tuesday evening.

The incident occurred around 9pm in the Lewis Park area of Ballykeel.

Four NIE engineers were onsite to repair a cable fault in the area when young children started to throw stones damaging a vehicle and injuring one of the engineers.

Engineers were carrying out permanent repairs to a damaged cable. The damage had been caused by a third party on Tuesday morning and resulted in many households in the Harryville area losing power.

Roy Coulter, Director of Health & Safety at NIE said, “Fortunately we were using alternative network arrangements to ensure that all customers still had electricity while these permanent repairs were being carried out. However, it is still important that we carry out permanent repairs as quickly as possible. That’s why our crews were working into the night.

“This year NIE has already seen vandalism and damage to their equipment and network in this area. We would remind the community in Ballykeel that we are providing a vital service and would appeal to them not to prevent us carrying out our work safely.

“Repair teams do not take the decision lightly to leave their work however when their own safety is in danger they have no choice.

“One of our workers was hurt during the incident – fortunately not seriously – but it could have been very different. We take the safety of our workers very seriously and in every event we have to decide if it’s safe for our teams to attend.”

NIE repair teams were back onsite to complete work on the underground cable on Wednesday.

North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley Jnr. said he was shocked to hear of the incident.

“These workers were performing valuable and important work that brings benefit to the whole community. It is frankly disgraceful that they should have been attacked in this way,” he said.

In fact, the team were engaged in repairing damage to cables which had cut supply to more than 1,000 customers in the Larne Road area of Ballymena at 8.45 am on 14 December.

The incident happened as a contractor hit and damaged an underground electricity cable.

NIE emergency crews responded immediately, isolating the damaged section of cable, and restoring customers via an alternative cable route with all customers’ electricity supplies restored by 10.10 am. Permanent repairs were ongoing throughout Tuesday.

Natasha McGee, NIE Customer Relations Manager for the area, once again urged contractors working in the vicinity of underground cables to follow proper safety precautions prior to work commencing.

She says “This is another example of contractors not following correct procedures when working near electricity equipment.

“Luckily in this incident no-one was injured but the results could have been very different.

“Contractors should exercise extreme caution when working in the vicinity of underground cables, using safe working practices such as digging trial holes and digging by hand to avoid any damages to or alteration of the location of the cable.

“Any incident of damages to the electricity network can cause inconvenience to customers in surrounding areas and place contractors at risk from injury.

“With good working practices the number of these incidences could be dramatically reduced. The damage affected many homes, causing inconvenience to customers in the area.”