CT Power Company Takes 10 Hours To Save Trapped Police Officer

By Jonathan Dienst, Alice McQuillan and Ida Siegel
|  Saturday, Mar 20, 2010  |  Updated 12:12 PM EDT
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CT Power Company Takes 10 Hours To Save Trapped Police Officer

Fairfield Fire Department

A Ford SUV was slammed by a large tree on Old Post Road in Fairfield.

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A Greenwich police officer was trapped in his patrol car for 10 hours after live wires fell around his vehicle and town officials are furious at Connecticut Light and Power for not responding to their calls for help for eight hours.

"It was extremely concerning and frustrating," Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei said Tuesday. Tesei said town officials failed to reach a live person at Connecticut Light and Power for eight hours Sunday as they sought help from the utility to remove live wires littering the streets. When asked if the delays were acceptable, Tesei said "certainly not."

This is just one story that has Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell calling for an investigation into the response by the electric company.  "It is flatly unacceptable for a fire or police official to be unable to reach a 'real person' at a utility company in the middle of an emergency," Rell said.

For its part, the utility said "during the height of the storm on Saturday, we responded only to life-threatening E-911 calls.  We pulled our crews off the road during the period of time when we could not ensure their safety because of the extreme storm conditions.  If this particular incident was called in as, or escalated to, a life-threatening situation, we would have responded."

Connecticut Light and Power has also come under scathing criticism by its own union workers who allege the company delayed sending help in order to save on overtime costs. 

A company spokesman said the utility is reviewing its response but denied any attempt to save on overtime.  She said company protocols call for most crews to work during daylight hours because crews can work more efficiently.

In Darien, town administrator Carl Kilduff said Connecticut Light and Power did not send enough crews to help.  He said there was just one crew working from Sunday into Monday.  "One crew is not quite sufficient," Kilduff said.  "As of today, we have 30 crews."

Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said his town was able to reach the power company but not enough help was sent.  "It was a manpower issue.  It took time for them to get here and get out on the road," Joseloff said.

Northeast Utilities CEO Charles Shivery made $8 million in cash and stock in 2008.  CL & P's parent company stock price hit a 52-week high on Tuesday closing at 27.25 per share.  A spokeswoman for Northeast Utility did not return immediate calls for comment about Shivery's take on his subsidiary's repsonse.

Thousands of homes remain without power across Fairfield County.  Some homes may not see service restored until Thursday or Friday.

As for that Greenwich officer trapped for 10 hours, Matthew Nardi says he forgives the utility saying it  was "simply too dangerous" for crews to brave 60 mph winds, downed trees and live wires to get him out sooner.

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