Nearly a year after Lauren Abraham stepped on a downed power line and “burst into flames” during Superstorm Sandy, her family has filed suit.
Kim Tinnin, Abraham’s mother, is suing Con Edison on behalf of her daughter for her “wrongful death,” according to court papers.
Abraham, 23, walked outside her home on 134th Street in Richmond Hill around 8:30 p.m. the night of the storm. When she walked from her driveway onto the street, she inadvertently came into contact with the exposed portion of a severed power line, said a complaint filed in Manhattan’s Supreme Court.
“Abraham, beloved by everyone who met her, then burned alive, writhing and screaming while her neighbors and friends looked on, unable to help because the power line was still live,” the papers said. “The flames grew so large that one neighbor did not even realize that a person was being burned.”
Court papers allege Abraham, a make-up artist and aspiring teacher, burned alive for approximately 30 minutes.
Neighbors said they could “smell the body burning all night.”
“It’s the most horrific way anyone can die,” said Douglas Wigdor, Tinnin’s attorney.
Wigdor said Con Ed could have done a number of things to prevent an incident during the storm. For one, power lines should have been underground, as has been the fight for many years. Secondly, existing technology could have been implemented that immediately de-energizes power lines once they come down.
The area could have also been de-energized prior to the storm.
Also, Wigdor noted, recorded winds measured no more than 56 mph during the time Abraham was outside. Power lines should be able to withstand these speeds, which are much less than hurricane-speed winds. This suggests Con Ed did not properly maintain the lines, the attorney said.
During and after the incident, Con Ed took two hours to shut down the electrical line’s power source. Emergency personnel on site had “no choice but to watch helplessly as Abraham continued to burn in the street,” according to court papers.
Tinnin is seeking to recover personal injuries and pain and suffering. Economic damages will be determined during trial. There was no set date for trial as of press time.
Con Ed additionally has not reached out to Abraham’s family since her death. The power company did not return requests for comment.