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Inquest hears how arc of electricity hit Brighton man
The lights went out at a hostel where a 40-year-old man was living when a bolt of electricity struck him during a police stand-off.
The night receptionist at William Collier House in Brighton knew resident Richie Powell was threatening suicide on the roof of a nearby sub-station when he heard an explosion.
Darkness fell for a split-second.
The silence that followed was broken by Mr Powell’s screams of pain as flames engulfed him.
Mr Powell suffered 85% burns early on the morning of October 25 last year.
He was taken to a specialist burns unit in Essex where he died on November 9.
An inquest into his death has been told an arc of electrical current leapt from the sub-station to strike him as he stood on its roof negotiating with police.
He had earlier called them threatening suicide.
The jury at the inquest at Brighton was told that when police arrived at the hostel shortly after 4.20am on Tuesday October 25, they found Mr Powell had barricaded his door.
He is believed to have climbed out of the window, walked around the corner and got into the electricity sub-station. He was injured at 5.54am.
Night receptionist Christopher Studley-Gray told Brighton and Hove Coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley he was inside the hostel when he heard the explosion as the electricity hit Mr Powell.
He said: “The lights went out very briefly for about half a second.
“It all went quiet. He started screaming.”
The inquest was told Mr Powell had become paranoid after he was arrested on suspicion of attempted rape – an allegation he denied and which police dropped within a month.
The 40-year-old called The Argus in his fight to clear his name and his story appeared on the front page on October 22.
He had told his probation and outreach workers that he had been threatened in the street because of his arrest, and said he was afraid of going to prison.
On October 24, he told Mr Studley-Grey he had been beaten up.
Hostel manager Issam Al-Naijar said he had spoken to Richie about his fears.
He said: “The allegation changed everything.
“That’s when he went off-track.
“Richie became very paranoid in the last period.
“He felt he was not safe in the hostel or outside on the street.”
The inquest was told the hostel had restricted how far its windows opened, following recommendations from Brighton and Hove City Council made after Richie’s death.
UK Power Networks, which runs the sub-station, is due to give evidence at the third day of the inquest on Monday.