'Monkey boy' killed by touching 66,000-volt cable after scaling 100ft pylon
Electrocuted: Michael O'Nion, 15, seen dressed for a wedding, climbed a pylon despite warnings by his friends
A daredevil schoolboy nicknamed ‘monkey boy’ was electrocuted after showing off to his friends by climbing a pylon.
Michael O’Nion, 15, scaled a barbed wire platform before he touched a 66,000-volt cable on the 100ft-high tower.
His three friends said the teenager, known as Mikey, had dared them all to join him but they refused as it was too dangerous.
An 11-year-old boy told an inquest how the four were playing in woods at Ravensfield, Rotherham when the tragedy happened.
He said Michael scaled one of the four legs of the pylon and put one foot on the barbed wire 20ft above the ground and his other on the metal frame before grabbing a bar above his head and swinging himself up.
He walked around on the barbed wire and began ‘bouncing up and down.’
Michael then climbed further up the pylon by its metal bars and stood on one, singing and laughing.
He shouted to the 11-year-old: ‘I dare you to climb up now.’
The daredevil said ‘watch this’ and tried to grab a cable.
The young witness said: ‘He grabbed hold of the wire with his left hand. I heard a buzz and a flash of gold light and a smell as if soemthing was burning.’
He heard a second bang and saw Michael’s blackened body fall face-first onto the barbed wire platform below.
One of the friends, also 15, told the hearing in Rotherham: ‘All of a sudden there was a massive bang and I saw what appeared to be lightning only brighter, a kind of yellow.’
He went on: ‘None of us enocuraged him to climb the pylon. I don’t know why he decided to do it. We all knew it was dangerous.’
Killer tower: The pylon in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, where Michael died
A 13-year-old boy, the third friend who watched Michael die, said they had all gone to the woods to climb some rocks but Michael decided to scale the pylon.
‘We all told him not to be daft,’ he said.
After wandering off he heard a loud bang and saw a flash from the pylon.
Nearby trees rattled. He heard one of the pals shout: ‘I think he’s dead.’
The 13-year-old said: ‘It made us really upset. It was horrible to see a friend in a position like this.
‘He did this of his own accord. All three of us told him not to but he did it anyway.’
The 15-year-old friend said they were all ‘having a laugh and lessing about’ when Michale decided to climb the pylon.
He told the hearing: ‘He said he was going to do it as he had done it before. I have seen him climb to the top of big trees but I have never seen him climb a pylon before.’
Police officers who rushed to the scene on September 14 last year found the victim’s body lifeless.
It was brought down by firefighters using specialist equipment.
PC Neil Moxon, who supervised the investigation, told the hearing: ‘They called him the monkey boy. He had a reputation for climbing.’
Health and Safety Executive officials and other experts held an inquiry but no criminal prosecution has followed.
After the tragedy better warning signs were palced in the woods and the barbed wire defender replaced.
Rotherham’s deputy coroner Fred Curtis said: ‘I believe he climbed the pylon as an adventurous act and did not appreciate the dangers which existed.’
He recorded a verdict of accidental death.
After the hearing Michael’s father Lee O’Nion, a 40-year-old lorry driver, said: ‘I believe he was just showing off.
‘He loved a laugh and a joke but ironically was normally scared of heights.
‘The riskiest thing I have seen him do before is go on the Surf Rider at Skegness and it took him three days to build up to that.
‘He was a young lad and did silly, daft things but nothing like this.’
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