Husband, father of 5 dies while working on power line near Hanford

Husband, father of 5 dies while working on power line near Hanford

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. — A utility worker died at the hospital after falling roughly 100 feet into the Columbia River while working on a power line near the Hanford Site, according to officials.

Cliff Johnson, 44, of Idaho was a contractor for Avista Utilities. He was working along the river at the Benton-Franklin County border when he fell on Tuesday.

Water rescue crews responded to the scene around 2:30 p.m. Johnson was rushed to Kadlec where he passed away.

Benton County Coroner Bill Leach said Johnson drowned to death. No autopsy will be performed.

A GoFundMe page created on behalf of his family has already raised more than $43,000. It says Johnson was a husband and father to five children ranging from grade school to college age.

“He was a genuinely funny, kind, caring, hardworking and devoted family man, friend and IBEW lineman,” the page says. “We ask that you donate in honor of Cliff’s memory and to aid his family in such a devastating time.”

Avista Utilities issued a statement in response to this tragedy:

It is with heavy hearts that we can confirm the International Line Builders (ILB) contractor involved in Tuesday’s incident in central Washington did not survive his injuries.

“We express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the ILB crew member,” said Dennis Vermillion, Avista president and CEO. “Our utility contract partners are an integral part of our operations, and we’re grateful for their commitment and dedication. We are focused on supporting our utility family and all those who are impacted by this tragic loss during this difficult time.”

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon in the course of work on an Avista transmission line near Franklin County. All work has stopped, and Avista is working closely with ILB, local authorities and other entities involved in the investigation to fully understand the situation and next steps.

Avista is focused on supporting his family and also appreciates the impact this will have throughout the utility industry. The company is in the process of setting up a family assistance fund.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Coroner Bill Leach originally told KAPP-KVEW the cause of death was blunt force trauma. His detail has been corrected.