Thanet councilor Barry Manners shocked by electrical cable while volunteering at Northdown Park, Cliftonville

A volunteer escaped death after sending his pickaxe through an electrical cable buried in the ground while planting trees.

Barry Manners felt an explosive electrical pulse pass through his body after it rained on the 450 kilowatt cable in Northdown Park, owned by Thanet Borough Council, in Cliftonville.

Barry Manners was electrocuted when he cut a wire with his pickaxe in Northdown Park, Cliftonville. Photo: Barry Manners

Mr Manners believes his thick rubber soles protected him from electrocution during the accident which he believes was caused by a misunderstanding with the health and safety council.

Today Mr Manners spoke out about the confusion to ensure others do not suffer in the same way.

When Thanet District Council granted Mr Manners and the Botany Bay Community Group permission to carry out the work earlier this year, his group was unsure of how to survey the land safely.


Describing the harrowing moment when electricity coursed through his arm and leg, he said: “It made me step back and I dropped the pickaxe – then there was a puff of black smoke.

“So I recognized pretty immediately that something was wrong, probably electricity.

“It was painful. I mean, it was a big three-phase, high-voltage electrical cable.

“I asked for volunteers to clear the site and called the fire brigade.”

When crews arrived, they insisted an ambulance be called because he was experiencing painful numbness in his arm and chest pain.

The 450 kilowatt wire that shocked Barry Manners at Northdown Park, Cliftonville. Photo: Cédric Towning

Mr. Manners wore work boots with thick rubber soles and the pickaxe had a rubber handle.

If this had not been the case, the result could have been very different, he believes.


“I am extremely lucky. It could have been fatal,” he said.

Mr Manners, Conservative councilor for Cliftonville East, was working with the Botany Bay community group, helping to plant trees on council-owned land, at the time of the accident last Saturday.

He told KentOnline he believed the relevant investigations had been carried out to ensure working safety, but due to a misunderstanding this was not the case.

“I was examined at the QEQM and had an ECG and blood tests, and luckily I’m fine,” he said.

“But I had nausea and a metallic taste in my mouth.

“I still feel a little weak and tired.

“The doctor’s advice is to rest and drink plenty of fluids for a while.”

Now he wants to make sure a similar situation doesn’t happen to another volunteer trying to make his area better.

Staff from UK Power Networks attended Northdown Park in Cliftonville to secure the cable. Photo: Cédric Towning

Mr Manners says the district council asked the community group to carry out its own risk assessment on the ground.

He says they then paid £120 for the work, which included a surveying fee, but unbeknownst to them they did not cover the relevant survey intended to find underground wiring.

He claims the council failed to give the group correct advice, meaning it failed to check for underground cables.

Mr Manners continued: “My main concern now is to ensure we have appropriate procedures in place to keep volunteers safe, but also to encourage greater participation from people working on public land.

“You have to have checks and balances and there has to be a solid procedure that ensures things are done correctly and safely.

“But that’s not what happened here. Something slipped through the cracks. I think we need to learn from this.

“If community groups are working on common land, I think the idea of ​​making them entirely responsible for every aspect of planning is ridiculous.

“What was I supposed to check during this risk assessment?

“At what point is it unreasonable to leave this to a group of volunteers who are just trying to plant trees?

“The council should try to help volunteers, without making their job more difficult. »

Barry Manners and other volunteers were planting fruit trees at Northdown Park, Cliftonville

Councilor Cedric Towning witnessed the incident and spoke to UKPN staff who came to secure the cable.

He told KentOnline: “They said Barry wouldn’t be talking to us today if he hadn’t been wearing his wellies and holding the rubber handle. He is a very lucky man.

“I don’t understand why we weren’t told the cable was there.

“The scan to find them takes a few minutes and they showed me where the cable was.

“It’s not about looking for someone to get the jab, but finding a way to move forward to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

TDC staff will now plant the young fruit trees themselves while an investigation is underway.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “We support a number of volunteer groups who choose to offer their time to various projects across the district. The contribution of these volunteers is greatly appreciated.

“We have been informed of the incident involving a volunteer at Northdown Park. An internal investigation is underway. »