TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — An off-duty state wildlife officer who had recently rescued three people from drowning died Wednesday when his bicycle came into contact with a live power line on a Tampa Bay bridge, police said.
Tampa police said Gregory Patterson, 47, was riding on a path along the Courtney Campbell Causeway early in the day when he made contact with the power line, which may have been down for hours before he was killed.
Authorities had to turn off power in the area before they could approach Patterson and confirm he was dead, police spokesman Steve Hegarty said in an email.
An officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Patterson had been nominated for an award for saving three people struggling to stay afloat in strong current after their personal watercraft capsized Saturday.
The manager of a restaurant near the accident said they called to report a partial power outage Tuesday night, seven hours before Patterson was killed. Marty Duffany said he first called a private electrician and then called an automated number for TECO, the power company. Strong thunderstorms were moving through the area at the time.
"It's really upsetting that happened," Duffany said. "We did our part and called. I think something definitely went wrong."
TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs told the Tampa Bay Times (http://tinyurl.com/zy6cb9q) that the company was investigating and said it's possible the line went down Tuesday night. But she said the company didn't find out about the downed line until fire-rescue crews trying to help Patterson called the utility.
"It's possible that the outage happened before the line went down or it's possible the line went down and caused the outage," Jacobs said. "It's clearly something we want to get to the bottom of."
The accident happened on a bridge connects Tampa with Clearwater. It crosses Tampa Bay north of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was completely closed for hours Tuesday after a tanker truck fire.