Authorities say a maintenance worker died when he stuck his hand in a high-voltage transformer at an abandoned mall on Milwaukee’s northwest side.
According to a Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s report, 37-year-old Victoriano Diaz was working to weld doors shut at the former Northridge mall when he noticed a door to the electrical box was open. According to the report, Diaz stuck his right hand into the box and was killed by an electrical shock.
Diaz was hired by property owners U.S. Black Spruce Enterprise Group to clean up the mall for the past year. He was working at the mall Monday with three friends he had hired to work on the project with him.
The other workers told authorities at the scene that they were finishing up for the day and “checking the place out” when they noticed the door of the electrical box was open. When Diaz stuck his hand into the door, the group saw an electrical flash before Diaz was thrown backward into a brick wall and fell to the ground shaking.
Diaz told them “don’t touch me,” according to the report, before he rolled into the fetal position and stopped breathing. According to investigators, Diaz may have touched a metal hook inside the electrical box, which carried 4,800 volts and was not grounded.
The group waited about 15 minutes before calling 911, and it took the fire department “some time” to get to the body. After paramedics unsuccessfully tried to revive Diaz, he was pronounced dead at about 9 p.m. The medical examiner’s office noted he had burns marks on his right hand.
The Northridge Mall is a frequent target of vandalism and trespassing, and the electrical boxes that electrocuted Diaz had previously been vandalized for copper wiring and had multiple graffiti marks on it. A door on one side of the box was locked with two padlocks and another lock that requires a special key to open. But a door to the electrical panel Diaz touched was open. Behind the box investigators found a sledge hammer and bolt cutters.
Diaz’s death comes after the city ordered Black Spruce to demolish the mall, saying it is dilapidated and a threat to public safety. The city in April issued a raze order on the 900,000-square-foot property. Black Spruce last week said it will file an appeal of the order.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.