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Man electrocuted while paining Habitat home in New Kensington

| Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Blawnox-area man died Wednesday afternoon after he was electrocuted while painting the exterior of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore along Industrial Boulevard.

Paul Thompson, 48, was working on the building's roof about 2:50 p.m. when he apparently came in contact with power lines, according to Diane Belitskus, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley.

"I don't know what he touched, but there are a lot of big wires up there," said Belitskus, who was inside the building and did not see the electrocution.

Belitskus said Thompson's co-worker performed CPR for several minutes until emergency crews arrived.

Rescuers used a ladder truck from New Kensington's volunteer fire department to bring the Thompson's body down from the roof. He was taken to Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison but could not be revived.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office said Thompson was from the Pittsburgh ZIP code 15238, which includes Blawnox and Fox Chapel. An official cause of death is pending an autopsy scheduled for today.

Belitskus said the two men from Springdale-based Modern Painting and Decorating had been working on painting the exterior of the upper part of the building since Tuesday. She said they had been leaning out from the roof to spray-paint along the walls, near where power lines are located.

Belitskus said the company was contracted by the building's owner and also painted the building last year. She was told it was the victim's second day working with Modern Painting.

Thomas Caruso, owner of the painting company, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

Habitat for Humanity rents space in the building for the ReStore, a retail outlet that sells home improvement and decorating items as a fundraiser for the charity.

Belitskus said the building is owned by Gus Blume, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

She said Wednesday's incident won't help the discomfort she feels when she watches volunteers work on roofs or ladders when they are building homes for people.

"He was too damn young to die," she said.

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