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Power lines kill San Bernardino couple, son

January 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Power lines come crashing down in a San Bernardino backyard. Within minutes, a father, mother and son are dead. Family members are outraged. Strong winds may be to blame. A downed power line led to the electrocution of three family members. They lived at a house on Acacia Ave. near 54th St.The victims were identified as Steven Vego, 44, Sharon Vego, 43, and Jonathan Cole, 21.

According to the fire department, Steven Vego heard a "pop," and saw there was a fire in his backyard. When he went out to douse the flames, he unknowingly stepped on a downed power line. He was electrocuted, and his wife also became a victim when she tried to rescue him. Their 21-year-old was electrocuted when he tried to pull his parents free.

It all happened in a matter of seconds. Around 5:45 a.m. Friday, power lines came falling to the ground after an explosion during a howling wind storm in a San Bernardino neighborhood.

"It was horrendous, it was a huge, huge gust of wind," said one neighbor.

"I saw a really bright light flash out my window and power went out," said neighbor Richie Merola.

But what neighbors did not know was the tragic chain of events unfolding right next door.

Frank Vego says it all started when his brother went outside to investigate a fire started by the explosion.

"Evidently he didn't see the line that was down, and he stepped on it, and the tragedy just escalated from there, family members trying to help him, and it just domino-effect, and I lost three people," said Frank Vego, one of the victims' brother.

The homeowner, 44-year-old Steven Vego was the first to perish. Vego's wife, Sharon, ran out to help. She was also electrocuted. And then their son, 21-year-old Jonathan Cole, ran outside and he was killed.

Police say two children, a 10-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl, were inside the home at the time. They both survived and have been relocated with family members.

Frank Vego isn't only sad, he's furious. He thinks this should have been prevented.

"This is the second time those lines have fell on my brother's house, the second time they've caused fires in my brother's house," said Vego. "This time it killed his family and him."

Southern California Edison is investigating those claims.

It was a 16,000-volt power line that came down.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out not only to the family members, but the neighbors here who are obviously close to the family. Words can't express the tragedy that's taken place today," said SCE spokesman Steven Conroy.

"We recognize that this is a very difficult time for the family, friends and neighbors, and they all have our deepest condolences," said SCE President Ronald Litzinger.

SoCal Edison crews were still working Friday evening to restore power to the neighborhood.

A fund was set up for donations to the family:

Vego-Cole Family Fund
c/o Edison International Community Involvement
2244 Walnut Grove Avenue
Rosemead, CA 91770
(866) 524-8533