Police and city officials confirmed Monday that a dog was electrocuted and died after it stepped on a charged junction box on a city sidewalk.
City employees are now investigating “what the heck happened and when someone was last in the junction box,” said City and Borough of Juneau Engineering Director Rorie Watt.
“I guess there’s a question about who was doing work on this junction box most recently and is there a contractor that has some responsibility in this situation,” Watt said in a phone interview Monday.
Juneau Police Department spokesman Lt. David Campbell confirmed that a woman was walking her dog around midnight Saturday when the dog stepped on the metal lid on the sidewalk at the corner of Front and Seward streets near the construction site of the Walter Soboleff building.
The woman was not injured, Campbell said. Her name was not released, and her identity remains unknown to the Empire.
Alaska Electric Light & Power received a call from JPD at 12:25 a.m., and the power company sent an engineer to the scene, said AEL&P Vice President and spokeswoman Debbie Driscoll. Driscoll said the engineer discovered the circuit in question did not belong to AEL&P and isn’t part of its electrical system.
Watt confirmed the junction box is city property.
All of Juneau’s street lighting wires are located underground in conduits, protected by junction boxes on the sidewalk, he said. The junction boxes are about a foot wide and 18 inches long, and they have a metal lid over them.
“Something happened where the hot conductor came in contact with the lid and then the dog stopped on the lid,” he said.
Watt said the city is taking the matter seriously. The city’s street superintendent is investigating what happened, as is the city’s risk manager who is in charge of determining whose liability it is.
CBJ Risk Manager Jennifer Mannix said she called the dog’s owner on Monday to apologize.
“I called her this afternoon just to tell her we we're sorry for the incident,” Mannix said by phone. “We’re still looking into the cause of it. We fixed the immediate problem, but with all the construction going on in that area, we haven’t figured out how the junction box became live. It’s a bit of a mystery still.”
Mannix said this is the first she’s ever heard of something like this happening in Juneau. She said she did not have any other information about the dog except that the police report indicated it was a pug.
City Engineer Watt noted that a storm grate that takes in rainwater and snowmelt at that downtown intersection was not a factor in the incident, despite rumors.
“There are many storm grates, but they’re unrelated to this,” he said.
He added, “Once you start looking, there’s a lot more stuff buried in the sidewalk than you’d ever guess.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.