University of Minnesota police confirmed a man was shocked and then hospitalized in critical condition after climbing a utility pole in Dinkytown early Wednesday morning.
Minneapolis police say 24-year-old Steven McKinney, of Plymouth, Minn., and a friend were walking through Dinkytown at about 1:30 a.m. when the two climbed the pole at the corner of 14th Avenue and 7th Street SE, but McKinney touched a live wire.
McKinney, known to loved ones as "Sven," did not suffer a shock, according to his sister. Rather, something he touched caused the transformer to explode, setting his shirt on fire and causing him to fall to the ground in flames while bleeding from his mouth.
"He was laying on the ground and there was a girl underneath him, holding his head up," Laura Lerner, who lives nearby, told FOX 9 News. "There was another man -- pretty distraught. I think it was his friend. Then, there was also the guy who had drove up in his car and got out, saw him on fire and threw his coat over him."
Lerner said she's heard a lot of things in her Dinkytown neighborhood.
"You hear a lot of talking, a lot of drunk people, bickering, fighting," she said. "We've heard brawls. We've heard pretty much everything."
Yet, what she heard early Wednesday morning while resting in bed with her was unlike anything she'd ever heard before.
"All of a sudden, outside I see this big flash of light, a huge boom and then two sounds after that sounded like gunshots," she recalled. "Then, after that, I heard a bunch of people yelling, and I thought, 'Oh, maybe someone got shot.'"
McKinney was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center with severe burns on 30 percent of his body, and he remains there in critical condition.
The power was knocked out after the shock and subsequent fall but Xcel Energy crews fully restored it a short time later.
McKinney's mother told FOX 9 News her son has been climbing since he was six, and is an instructor at Vertical Endeavors in south Minneapolis, but she is not sure why he chose to climb something so dangerous.
"I feel terrible. He was just trying to have fun doing what he loves," Lerner said. "Next thing you know, he's on the ground on fire."
Now, Lerner said she hopes what happened to McKinney will prevent other climbing enthusiasts from even attempting the same.
"Don't climb electrical poles," she urged. "Bad outcome."
McKinney's mother said her son also suffered a collapsed lung in the accident and currently can't speak because he has a tube down his throat. When she asked the doctor whether alcohol played a role in her son's accident, he told her it did not.
The family has been chronicling McKinney's recovery on CaringBridge, but he still has a long recovery ahead of him. It's estimated that he will spend at about 2 months in intensive care alone, but the family has been unable to establish a fund to offset medical costs due to the partial federal government shutdown. In the interim, the family hopes to raise $10,000 toward his recovery via GoFundMe. Donations can be made online at the following address: http://www.gofundme.com/4rj93s