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5 Killed When Irene Downs Powerlines

October 16, 1999

MIAMI (AP) _ Mary Anne Ruda, her twin sons and their teen-age friend were out for a walk during a respite in Hurricane Irene, which had pounded south Florida all day.

For hours, the storm had raged, eventually dumping more than a foot of rain in some areas. Shortly before 10 p.m. Friday, after the rain subsided, Ms. Ruda, 48, and 11-year-old twins Max and Mike decided to go outside in their Weston neighborhood with their dachshund and 14-year-old Douglas Hemphill.

Strolling ahead of Ms. Ruda, the boys and the dog walked into a puddle, not seeing a power line submerged in the murky water.

They were all instantly electrocuted, their bodies collapsing into the water, said Cheryl Stopnick, a Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

Ms. Ruda ran toward her children. When she stepped into the water near the boys, she too was electrocuted.

The four were among the five people killed by Irene as it crossed Florida on Friday. The storm moved over the Atlantic early today and turned north.

Florida Power & Light responded immediately to the deaths in Weston, about 20 miles west of Fort Lauderdale, by cutting power to lines in the neighborhood, Stopnick said.

``It’s awfully tempting after a storm or when the rain lets up to go out or let your kids lay in the puddles,″ she said. ``But this is a tragic example of why this is a dangerous idea.″

The fifth death was tragically similar. In Cooper City, 10 miles to the east, two teen-age brothers were walking home through partly flooded streets, after buying candy and soda.

The oldest, a 13-year-old, saw a power line under 18 inches of rain water and picked it up, sending deadly voltage coursing through his limbs, said Marvin Stoner, with the Cooper City Police Department.

``His younger brother noticed his older brother was in distress and grabbed him,″ Stoner said. ``He was shocked, released his brother and ran home.″

The younger brother fetched his parents who returned to perform CPR to no avail. The older boy died at the hospital.

Police did not identify the boys.

``I’ve been here 12 years and I can’t remember in the past where anybody was electrocuted in this manner,″ said Stoner.

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