Mysterious Fire On Service Truck Leads To Death Of Line Worker On the Job

Posted at 3:38 PM, Jul 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-10 19:56:29-04

A power company lineman was killed when the lift bucket he was working in suddenly burst into flames.

What happened stunned Coffee County sheriff's investigators.

"This is very rare. I've been in law enforcement 24 years and this is the first time I've seen anything like this," said sheriff's Detective Kelly Smith.

Dean Batey with Duck River Electric was working to repair a security light on a power line pole outside Manchester when the lift bucket he was in caught fire.

"He basically jumped from the bucket to keep from getting burned up. And we think the jump is what killed him? Yes," said Smith

Batey fell about 15 feet. Duck River Electric president and CEO Michael Watson said Batey did not make contact with the power lines.

For now, investigators simply do not know what sparked the blaze.

"I've never heard of this type of incident. The first fatality ever in the company," said Watson.

The 58-year-old Batey was much respected and a very experienced line worker.

He spent 40 years in the industry the last 19 at Duck River Membership Electric Corporation. Duck River has one other similar truck involved in this incident. It is grounded for now -- not in use --  until they can figure out what went wrong. 

Duck River Electric is working with Coffee County Sheriff's detectives and the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate what happened.