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Soldier sunbathing under 15,000-volt electricity wire sparks panic

The train station in Guben, Germany. A U.S. soldier almost electrocuted himself while sunbathing on top of a military truck parked on a stationary train at the station in this eastern German town on the Polish border.

CITY OF GUBEN

By MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 3, 2019

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A U.S. soldier sunbathing atop an Army truck parked on a rail line risked electrocuting himself, forcing controllers to shut down at a train station near Germany’s border with Poland, authorities said Wednesday.

The soldier was catching some sun at about 2:15 p.m. Monday when a German railroad worker in the eastern town of Guben spotted the servicemember lying directly beneath electricity wires.

“His life was at risk,” said Mathias Hellwig, a federal police officer in Guben.

Train station authorities quickly shut power down along the tracks. Police rushed to the scene and ordered the soldier down from the truck, which was parked on top of a stationary train car, Hellwig said.

The shutdown was short and power was soon restored.

However, Hellwig said the incident has prompted law enforcement to consider sending instructions to the Army on the do’s and don’ts for how to behave on rail lines.

The railroad service’s official information brochure is rather clear on the risks: “Caution: Electricity! Climbing and riding on the trains is life-threatening,” it warns.

The railroad’s overhead lines carry electricity at 15,000 volts to power trains. A safe distance is about 5 feet, Hellwig said, but the soldier was about 3 feet from a live wire.

U.S. Army Europe said Friday that following completion of an investigation, it would “implement policy to prevent dangerous actions in the future” and appropriately discipline the soldier, who was on deployment to Europe. USAREUR also apologized for any inconvenience.

U.S. Army Europe was looking into the incident, a military official said, but immediate information wasn’t available.

Military convoys routinely move along rail lines in Germany and Poland, where vehicles are transported for exercises.

The sunbathing incident comes amid a heat wave in Germany, where soldiers are laboring in record-high summer temperatures.

Stars and Stripes reporter John Vandiver contributed to this report.

kloeckner.marcus@stripes.com

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