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'Thunderbolt moment' for metal thief avoids jail

A SCRAP metal thief who sawed through a cable and was zapped by a 11,000-volt blast, has been ordered to carry out 140 hours of unpaid work in the community after a Sheriff heard how he had experienced a life-changing "thunderbolt" from the episode.

William Durnan, of Kirkland Crescent, Dalry, North Ayrshire, survived the huge electrical surge but ended up "looking like the professor from the Back to the Future movie with his clothing and hair burned to a cinder", Paisley Sheriff Court had previously been told.

The explosion at 6.50am on August 19 last year, was so severe that it blacked out half of Johnstone town centre.

The 44-year-old admitted he had been stealing electric cable from a junction box.

As Durnan, shaking uncontrollably after the huge charge of power surged through his body and left him heavily charred, went to a nearby house for help, he was unable to talk but had clearly been subjected to the kind of blast that few survive.

When he last appeared sheepishly in the dock, the 44-year-old admitted that he had been stealing electric cable from a junction box that was situated beside a disused farmhouse in the town's Barochan Road.

The court put disposal on hold to see how he recovered from the severe burns he sustained to determine whether or not he ould be able to repay society by carrying out unpaid work in the community.

Thye court was told that the whole experience has "been something of a thunderbolt which has brought about a complete change in his attitude to life."

"This is a form of behaviour he will never repeat again," said defence agent David Nicholson.

"The episode has had a significant and profound effect on him. He knows that his life could very well have ended."

Previously it had been explained that Durnan had seen the property was unoccupied and looking derelict and wrongly assumed the power supply would have been cut off.

Depute fiscal Hazel Emmerson said the accused had set out with a hacksaw to gain some scrap copper wiring.

A local resident was awakened just before 7am by a loud bang that shattered the calm.

Seconds later there was a knock at his door and when he went to see who was there, Durnan was on the doorstep, clearly shocked and suffering from the experience.

"He was shaking uncontrollably and his clothing was blackened and burned," she said.

The emergency services were alerted and Durnan was rushed to Paisley's Royal Alexandra Hospital suffering from burns which were so severe that he was transferred to a specialist unit at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary.

Police cordoned off the land surrounding Barbush Cottage where the incident occurred while engineers were summoned to make the area safe.

Ms Emmerson added: "The ambulance crew could see that he was the victim of a severe electrical shock and associated severe burns."

Defence agent Terry Gallanagh told the court: "Your lordship will have heard about many shocking offences over the years, but perhaps none as literally as this.

"My client ended up on the doorstep of Mr Forsyth's home looking like the professor from the Back To The Future film with his hair and clothing burned to a cinder."

Sentence had been deferred for background reports and he was warned to stay out of trouble or face the consequences.

When Durnan returned to court for final disposal, Sheriff Tom McCartney was told that the experience had left the accused to badly scarred that he was determined not to offend again. His GP had confirmed he would be able to carry out unpaid work, however.

The Sheriff made him the subject of an 18-month community payback order requiring him to complete 140 hour of unpaid work.

When he last appeared in court, as the unemployed joiner left, his left hand and arm still heavily bandaged, Durnan, of Kirkland Crescent, Dalry, North Ayrshire, conceded he had been lucky to survive.

Pulling a portion of the bandage back to reveal heavy tissue scarring, he said: "My arm melted.

"I had to get plastic surgery."

ends

Contextual targeting label: 
Transport Tragedy

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