Questions remain over Denishar Woods’ shock

Denishar Woods.
Denishar Woods.

AN investigation into a girl’s near-fatal electric shock at a public housing property in Perth has failed to reach concrete findings about the ultimate cause.

Denishar Woods was shocked with up to 230 volts when she touched a garden tap at her family’s Beldon property in March last year, leaving her effectively blind, wheelchair-bound and unable to do anything for herself.

A report into the cause of the shock, released on Friday, concluded the neutral conductor on an aerial service cable supplying electricity to the property became open circuited after prolonged heating melted it almost completely.

When a kettle was switched on, what was left of the conductor melted, breaking the neutral connection.

“This open circuit neutral caused a voltage rise on the property’s protective earth system,” the report read.

The tap is connected to the earth system so it became energised, and when the 11-year-old touched it while standing on wet ground, she became a parallel path for the flow of electric current.

But what caused the prolonged heat could not be determined as the evidence was melted, investigators said.

Conclusions could also not be reached about whether the heating started on the aerial service side, which is owned by network operator Western Power, or the property owner side of the mains connection box attached to the roof.

“It is disappointing – above all, for the young girl and her family – that we cannot be more conclusive due to the damaged condition of the components,” Energy Safety director Saj Abdoolakhan said.

Shortly after the incident, Energy Safety director Mike Bunko said it was likely caused by an open circuit neutral, which could be caused by corrosion, a loose connection and in some cases, poor workmanship.

Western Power said on Friday “many factors over an extended period contributed to the slow deterioration to the single-phase aerial connection”.

In a statement, Housing Minister Peter Tinley said the report had been as meticulous and thorough as possible.

“As a result of its findings the state government has put in place a range of initiatives to improve community safety and to support Denishar and her family,” he said.

The state government has offered the family a $1 million act-of-grace payment, but mother Lacey Harrison is seeking more for Denishar’s substantial ongoing care through civil action if an out-of-court settlement can’t be reached.

Anyone who experiences shocks or tingles from fittings in their homes are urged to report them immediately.