Jimmie Dean was resting at home after a busy day’s work when the call came. Someone reported a natural gas leak in the Spokane Valley. Could he check it out?
The 32-year-old Washington Water Power Co. employee didn’t hesitate. He jumped into his car and headed out into Thursday night’s driving snowstorm.
Dean, who lived on North Nevada, got into a fender-bender on the way to the call, said his brother, Billy Dean. That slowed but didn’t stop him.
“He really loved his job. He lived for those after-hours service calls,” said Ed Dean, another brother.
This one killed him.
Dean, a WWP gas service worker, died about 8:20 p.m. after he accidently walked into a dangling power line in the 7600 block of East Nora.
He apparently never saw the 7,620-volt wire, even though it was marked by two orange hazard cones. “It got him right across the chest,” Ed Dean said.
His co-workers and medical personnel tried for more than an hour to resuscitate Dean but couldn’t bring the strapping 6-foot-3-inch man back to life.
The Spokane community joined family and co-workers Friday in mourning Dean - the divorced father of a 3-year-old son, Conrad.
Callers to a local radio program lauded him as a hero. One man said people should wear red ribbons in his memory.
The memorial service - originally scheduled for Riplinger Funeral Home - was moved to Trinity Baptist Church, 6528 N. Monroe, so more people could attend.
The service begins Tuesday at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Fairmount Memorial Park, 5200 W. Wellesley.
“This is a tragedy that wounds us all very deeply,” said WWP Chairman Paul Redmond. “To lose one of our own like this - in a senseless accident - is heartbreaking.”
Dean graduated from high school in Sunnyside, Wash., where he played football.
Family members said he had a good sense of humor and liked to kid around with friends, sometimes making “rabbit ears” behind their heads in photographs.
He also loved his son - who Ed Dean called his brother’s “reason for living” - very much, they said.
Dean served four years in the U.S. Air Force after high school, earning decorations for his work building airport facilities.
He had worked at WWP since 1990 and had a reputation for being very good at his job, said Billy Dean, who suffered severe electrical burns as a boy.
“He was very thorough and thoughtful. He was meticulous,” Ed Dean said. “That’s why I can’t believe this happened to him. He was always so careful.”
Redmond said the accident served as a sobering warning.
“This tragedy demonstrates in no uncertain terms the danger that downed power lines pose to anyone who comes near them,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo