‘Stupid’ would-be copper thieves risk electrocution and black out 800 homes and businesses on Central Coast

The power line felled by would-be copper thieves in Doyalson on the NSW Central Coast on Monday. Photo: AusgridWould-be thieves risked electrocution and triggered a mass blackout by attempting to steal copper wire from the power grid by chopping down a power pole with a chainsaw on Monday.

The foolhardy vandals cut power to 800 homes and businesses on the Central Coast when they felled the power pole at 1.36pm, Ausgrid said.

The attempted burglars sawed clean through the pole on a paddock in Doyalson, bringing down a pole-top substation and live power lines across a property.

The live electrical equipment at the top of the pole would have sent sparks flying as it hit the ground, which likely scared off the culprits before they could pinch the copper, an Ausgrid spokeswoman said.

They were lucky they didn’t electrocute themselves in the attempt, she said.

The incident was “one of the most brazen acts of vandalism we’ve seen – and the most stupid”, the spokeswoman said.

“Not only did these thieves put their own lives at risk by cutting down this power pole, they’ve also endangered the safety of the public.

“This reckless act could have cost a life or started a bushfire.”

Ausgrid reported the attack to police as technicians worked for up to three-and-a-half hours to restore power to the affected houses and businesses, the company said.

Locals who saw anything suspicious or have any information that could assist police have been urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Metal theft is a “lucrative and attractive venture for thieves”, an Australian Institute of Criminology 2011 report said, estimating the cost of metal theft to be $100 million a year.

The number of thefts rose to 126 in 2011-12, while the cost of repairs jumped to $300,000 from $200,000 across Ausgrid’s NSW electricity network.

Metal recyclers pay from $5 to $6 a kilogram for clean copper, website Scrap Metal Prices said.