Striking newspaper worker electrocuted in Mountain View

Striking newspaper worker electrocuted in Mountain View

Apparent sabotage attempt costs trucker his life

By Eric Brazil
Special to The Free Press

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Nov. 6, 1994 -- A striking San Francisco Newspaper Agency truck driver was electrocuted early Sunday morning in Mountain View in an apparent effort to disable the power supply of one of the agency's key distribution centers for the strikebound Chronicle and Examiner.

Kent Wilson, 45, died shortly after 2 a.m. at Stanford Hospital, after attempts by police and paramedics to revive him failed.

Wilson's death underscored the intensity of labor dispute that has disrupted operations of two of Northern California's major daily newspapers for nearly a week.

"It's a holy war out there now as far as (the drivers) are concerned. Somebody has died," said Mike Mallamo, a spokesman for Wilson's union, Teamsters Local 921.

The death jolted San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan and union and management representatives who have been locked in intense negotiations at City Hall for the past three days.

Jordan said that Wilson's death "should serve as a serious wake-up call to everyone involved." He called on both sides to "redouble their efforts to communicate the message of nonviolence to all involved."

Doug Cuthbertson, chairman of the Conference of Newspaper Unions, which launched the strike against the newspapers at 10 p.m. Tuesday, called Wilson's death a tragedy and said, "We can't let Kent's life be wasted."

Mountain View Police Sgt. Patrick Langner said Wilson was one of 30 to 35 pickets who were demonstrating at the distribution center at 2425 Lakehorn Ave.

"There were four monitoring officers, and at about 1:30 they were talking with some of the pickets about a minor incident in the driveway," Langner said. "They heard a loud popping noise, like a cherry bomb, and the power went out."

Wilson was found on the street about 15 feet from a high voltage transformer box, where he had evidently been hurled by the force of the explosion, Langner said.

The transformer box was unlocked, and some of its cables had been pulled apart. "Apparently Wilson touched one of those 12,000-volt wires and electrocuted himself, " Langner said. No cutting tools were found at the scene.

"The ground was wet. It was the worst possible conditions to be touching anything with high voltage going through it," he said. "It's so tragic, so sad, but it's apparent what happened."

Wilson had been a driver with the San Francisco Newspaper Agency for 23 years. He followed in the footsteps of his father Bill Wilson, a driver for 40 years.

Wilson is survived by his wife, Carol, and two children.

"He was a very hard worker," said Kevin Wolf, a fellow driver.

The San Francisco Newspaper Agency provides advertising, printing and distribution services to San Francisco's two daily newspapers.

Go back to news index