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Upgrade set for canal lights implicated in fatal accident

Earlier coverage

Canal accident video released Second of two claims filed against Oklahoma City in fatal canal accident is resolved

The light bollards implicated in a fatal accident along Oklahoma City's Bricktown Canal will be replaced by safer, pole-mounted lights.

The $625,000 project could begin next month and be done in spring 2021. Plans are to have the city council award the contract Feb. 18.

Wesley Seeley, 23, was electrocuted Sept. 30, 2018, after he fell into the canal.

Video showed Seeley reach around a waist-high light bollard installed at the edge of the canal. He was leaning backwards over the water when the fixture broke off at the base. He suffered a fatal electrical shock when he grabbed exposed wires as he tried to get out of the water.

A would-be rescuer who jumped into the canal was injured.

Several dozen light bollards like the one that broke have remained in use as the city worked on a plan to replace them.

The proposal set for review by the council is to overhaul the lighting system from the canal's western terminus at the BNSF Railway viaduct to E Reno Avenue. It is more extensive than originally envisioned in an architects' report requested in response to the accident.

That report found the 20-year-old lighting system consisted of about 44 light fixtures, mounted flush with the walking surface and, in most cases, within 24 inches of the water.

Architects said replacements should be farther from the canal. And mounting fixtures on poles and on structures, such as retaining walls or buildings, would increase safety, they noted.

Plans approved in November by the Bricktown Urban Design Committee are to remove the existing bollards and replace them with new lights mounted on poles, walls and on the surface.

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Kupper said last year that new lights would be "as far away from the water’s edge as we can possibly get."

FSB architects designed the replacement project, with an estimated cost of $1.5 million. Six bids were opened Jan. 15 and ranged from $625,000 to $1.6 million.

In an unusual twist, two bids of $625,000 were submitted. Staff had "to draw out of a hat to break the tie," Kupper said, and the low bid was awarded to Wynn Construction Co.

Despite the wide range in bids, with two in excess of $1 million, Kupper said Wynn could meet all of the specifications.

The architects' study of the existing system found it lacks safety features such as those commonly found in residential bathrooms near sinks and showers.

Those features are designed to prevent electrical injuries in accidents involving water. The new system is to comply with current electrical codes.

Related Photos
Drone photo of Bricktown Canal

Drone photo of Bricktown Canal

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William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›

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