Man hospitalized after climbing Dinkytown utility pole

The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Alexi Gusso

A former University of Minnesota graduate student was hospitalized early Wednesday morning after being electrocuted and falling from a Dinkytown electrical utility pole.

Steven McKinney, a 24-year-old from Plymouth, Minn., climbed a utility pole near 14th Avenue Southeast and Seventh Street Southeast around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. He was in critical condition at the Hennepin County Medical Center as of 4:50 p.m. Wednesday, an HCMC spokeswoman said.

McKinney was walking with a friend in Dinkytown when he climbed the pole and touched live wires, which electrocuted him and knocked him to the ground, according to an email from Cyndi Barrington, a public information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department.

Minneapolis police responded to the sound of an explosion near the intersection, according to a police
report.

Psychology junior Kaylin Graff heard the explosion from her apartment and saw McKinney fall.

The utility pole is almost directly outside Graff’s window, she said. She was shouting back and forth with two people outside her window when one responded, “Have you ever heard of Peter Pan?”

Graff didn’t hear anything else for about five minutes, she said, and then she heard an explosion and saw something falling. She thought it was debris but later realized it was McKinney’s body, she said.

“It was just like a big firework, basically, that fell to the ground,” she said.

Graff said she heard someone yelling for water, so she brought some out to the street. Graff saw that McKinney had caught fire and his friend tried to stomp it out, she said.

Graff said she didn’t look at McKinney very much but saw he was breathing. He was bleeding from the mouth, and another woman was trying to turn him onto his side to keep him from choking. Graff’s roommate noticed McKinney’s arms were badly burned, Graff said.

McKinney was last enrolled at the University during the spring 2011 semester as a non-degree-seeking student taking graduate-level courses, University spokesman Matt Hodson said in an email. He didn’t attend the University as an undergraduate, Hodson said.

Police were told McKinney is an “experienced climber,” Barrington said in an email.

Xcel Energy officials received notice that there was “public contact” with an electrical wire around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Xcel spokesman Tom Hoen said.

McKinney had already been taken to the hospital by the time Xcel workers arrived, Hoen said. The incident caused some in the area to temporarily lose power.

“It was like less than a minute,” he said. “Enough to make everyone change their clocks when they woke up [Wednesday] morning.”

Other people who heard the explosion gathered outside shortly afterward, and Graff said she comforted McKinney’s friend.

Graff said she asked, “Is your friend a tough guy? Is he gonna pull through?”

“Yeah, he’s a tough guy,” the friend responded.

 

-Emma Nelson and Cody Nelson contributed to this report.