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Sabotage Kills Power To 126,000 Customers

Sat., Oct. 25, 1997

The power failure that paralyzed a large section of San Francisco on Thursday morning was a deliberate act of sabotage, authorities said Friday.

The outage, which occurred when a substation operated by the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. shut down, left 126,000 customers without power.

“What we do know is it is not an accident,” said George Grotz, an FBI spokesman. “It does not appear to be a computer-related intrusion. It appears to be a deliberate act.”

Sabotage of a utility is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

FBI agents and San Francisco police inspectors are looking into the backgrounds of 75 PG&E; employees who have keys to the substation.

The power failed at 6:15 a.m. Thursday. Electricity was restored at 9:45 a.m.

“One of the possibilities that we have to look at is equipment tampering, and that was the last thing we wanted to have, but it was the last thing standing,” PG&E; spokesman Bill Roake said.

The power failure appeared to have been caused by someone manually turning off 39 different controls within the windowless substation at Eighth and Mission streets, said Todd Novak, a safety engineer and inspector for the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E.;

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