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Family Says Man Electrocuted Was Doing Job, Not Stealing Copper

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Police say a man who was electrocuted was trying to steal copper, but his family says he was doing his job cleaning up a vacant lot. (credit: Leonard Guillen)

Police say a man who was electrocuted was trying to steal copper, but his family says he was doing his job cleaning up a vacant lot. (credit: Leonard Guillen)

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SOUTH GATE (CBS) — Police say a man who was electrocuted was trying to steal copper, but his family claims he was just doing his job maintaining the property.

Jose Fernando Santillanes, 36, of Lynwood, was killed Saturday afternoon after apparently triggering an explosion and flash fire on a vacant lot at 3064 Firestone Blvd. His 3-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son were sitting in a truck just 15 feet away, South Gate police Lt. Keith Hupp said.

Santillanes’ wife, 33-year-old Maria Cortez, was critically burned while trying to pull him away from the vault. She is being treated at the Grossman Burn Center.

Police say they have criminal evidence that indicates he was trying to steal copper from the vault.

“Copper theft has been a problem for the past several years due to the high value of copper,” Hupp said. “Unfortunately sometimes people don’t know when wires are live, and these were definitely live.”

Electrocuted Man Allegedly Tried To Steal Copper Wiring: KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports.

However, neighbors who live near the lot say Santillanes was hired to clean up the vacant lot and have seen him doing his job for years.

“Hopefully it all clears up because its not fair that they come here and they work and something like this happened. It’s sad,” neighbor Karla Hernandez said.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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