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Parents of 2 Dixon teens killed in canal electrocution sue Solano Irrigation District

Mom describes how her son was electrocuted in Dixon

Dixon mother Candy Carrillo describes on Tuesday how her 17-year-old son Jacob Hourmouzus died after being electrocuted after grabbing a pipe or gate while trying to rescue a friend near a canal on Monday, April 1, 2019.
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Dixon mother Candy Carrillo describes on Tuesday how her 17-year-old son Jacob Hourmouzus died after being electrocuted after grabbing a pipe or gate while trying to rescue a friend near a canal on Monday, April 1, 2019.

The parents of the two teens who were fatally electrocuted in a Dixon canal earlier this month filed wrongful death complaints Tuesday against the Solano Irrigation District, which owns and operates the canal.

The parents of Jacob Schneider and Jacob Hourmouzus, who were reportedly electrocuted while trying to rescue a dog that had fallen from a bridge that spans a stretch of a canal near Dixon Avenue West, simultaneously filed wrongful death claims against SID in Solano County Superior Court.

The parents of each teenage boy are suing for general damages “in an amount according to proof” yet to be determined but which will exceed $10,000, according to a copy of the claim provided to The Sacramento Bee by the Schneiders’ attorney, Robert Buccola.

“We have demanded the preservation of all evidence and requested that, as a public entity, the Solano Irrigation District provide the facts that it has now discovered that would explain how or why this incident could have occurred,” Buccola told The Bee by email.

The claim forms filed on behalf of each family are identical in their allegations against SID, but the Schneiders’ claim additionally states that the claimants “intend to use such compensation strictly for charitable purposes and for the direct benefit of Solano County residents in need to make certain that similar incidents are averted.”

Both families are also seeking compensation for funeral and burial expenses, according to the claims.

Schneider and Hourmouzus, both 17-year-old Dixon High School seniors, were walking near a 25-foot-wide canal with two other teens and a dog just after noon April 1 when the dog either jumped or fell into the canal from the bridge, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release the day after the incident.

Hourmouzus and Schneider jumped into the canal in an effort to save the dog, then reached up to grab onto the bridge to pull themselves out of the canal, according to the sheriff’s statement.

“When doing so, witness reports state the two teenage boys appeared to have been electrocuted and unable to release their grip from the metal bridge,” the news release said.

A third boy jumped into the canal and knocked the boys off the bridge, the sheriff’s statement said, and they became unresponsive. Hourmouzus and Schneider were transported to Kaiser Vacaville, where they were pronounced dead the same day.

The claims allege that the bridge “was allowed to become electrically energized as a result of faulty electrical equipment, work, design, and/or maintenance performed by the Solano Irrigation District, or by its retained independent contractors whose negligence in the design, installation, maintenance, and/or performance of supplying electrical power to irrigation pumps and other electrically driven equipments are acts for which Defendant, Solano Irrigation District, is responsible.”

The claims continue, alleging that the bridge and canal were “dangerous in several respects, including but not limited to its lack of ground fault circuit technology, which would have prevented the foot bridge from becoming inadvertently dangerously electrically energized.”

“This is a tragic case,” SID spokeswoman Janet Zimmerman said in an emailed statement. “The Solano Irrigation District has and continues to cooperate with the Solano County Sheriff’s Department, providing all of the requested documents and information in the District’s possession and under its control. This ongoing investigation and pending litigation preclude us from further comment.”

The Solano County Sheriff’s Office said in the April 2 news release that it would investigate how the bridge came to be energized with electricity. The sheriff’s investigation remains active.

SID held a special meeting April 3, in which the sole agenda item was a closed session to discuss the “significant exposure to litigation” anticipated due to the two teens’ deaths at the canal.

The claim and wrongful death complaints also state that the canal and bridge are “routinely frequented by members of the public seeking to hike and otherwise take advantage of the rural setting.”

Hourmouzus’ mother, Candy Carrillo, told reporters the day after the incident that it was her understanding that the group of friends had been riding four-wheelers in a nearby orchard shortly before the electrocution occurred. Carrillo pointed to a lack of warning signs or fencing keeping the public away from the canal and bridge, and she called it “neglect” if it is found that authorities did not take the adequate measures to prevent the bridge from becoming energized.

According to its website, SID is an independent special district and a government agency that provides agricultural and domestic water services throughout most of Solano County. SID employs 81 people.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
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