Off-duty Edison employee praised for action at Visalia car accident

Matt Duma, a transmission line foreman for Southern California Edison, was asleep in bed when he heard a loud boom and the electricity went out.

Instinctively, he knew what had happened.

“Someone hit a pole,” he said. The time was 10:50 p.m. Monday.

He hopped in his car and went to the scene near Riggin Avenue and Demaree Street.

It’s a good thing he did, because he potentially saved a man’s life through his quick actions.

The wires were down, a transformer was on the ground, and someone was trapped in a car – but the fire department couldn’t rescue him because the wires were electrified, the Visalia Fire Department said.

Duma explained to a Visalia police officer that he worked for the electric company and could get the wires turned off.

It took a little talking because he didn’t have identification on him.

“I was still in my pajamas,” Duma said. “I said, ‘I’m with Edison.’ 

He pulled out his cellphone and showed the officer photos from the jobs he’d been on, and the officer waved him on.

At the site of the crash, he called substation operators Bryan Cheney and Brent Chavez at the Rector substation in Visalia and told them which lines were hot, and they activated switches and turned off the power.

That allowed the fire department to rescue the trapped driver, who was unresponsive, and get him to a hospital. He was conscious by the time they got him into the ambulance.

“The actions of the off-duty Edison employee were instrumental to the outcome of the incident,” battalion chief Danny Wristen said.

Before the fire department could thank Duma, he went home. He knew he would be called to fix the downed line and replace the pole and had to get ready.

Edison spokesman Brian Thoburn said he got a call from Wristen to say that the firefighters didn’t get a chance to get the off-duty employee’s name.

“Matt personifies Edison’s commitment to emergency response and coordinating with our first-responders,” Thoburn said.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold