By Kent Singer -
Electric co-op family suffers tragic loss when helicopter crashes
The entire Colorado electric co-op family suffered a tremendous loss January 27 when a helicopter carrying an electric co-op employee and two others went down, killing all three on board.
The crash claimed the life of Larry Shaffer, a journeyman lineman with Holy Cross Energy in Glenwood Springs, as well as helicopter pilot Doug Sheffer and Christopher Gaskill, an employee of Hot/Shot Infrared Inspections.
The three men were aboard the helicopter surveying Holy Cross electric lines near Silt in western Colorado. They were looking for “hot spots” where electric facilities are carrying excessive electrical current and generating heat. This type of work is commonly done by electric utilities to determine whether there are facilities that need to be repaired or upgraded, and to improve the efficiency of the utility system.
Larry had worked at Holy Cross Energy for 28 years. He was a journeyman lineman and a crew foreman. Line crews like Larry’s work every day to install and maintain underground and overhead power lines so that we can have electricity for our homes and businesses. They are the ones who answer the calls in the middle of the night when there is an outage, and they are the ones who literally risk their lives to make sure we stay warm and safe.
To become a journeyman lineman, Larry had to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of electricity characteristics and principles and pass a series of written and practical tests. To stay a journeyman lineman, Larry had to continually upgrade his knowledge of the industry and maintain a high level of competency in all his work tasks. It takes a special kind of person to master the complicated principles and physics of electricity flow and, at the same time, have the physical strength and stamina to do the hard work involved in servicing power facilities.
Larry was promoted to crew foreman in 2007. This means that he had gained the respect of his peers to the point that they trusted him with their lives. He was the leader of a band of brothers who relied on him every day for his knowledge and skills, and appreciated him for his positive attitude and work ethic. As fellow crew member Daniel Nunn said in a Holy Cross press release, Larry “was not afraid of work. It was hard to keep up with him.”
I did not know Larry, but I understand that he was a great storyteller and that he never met a stranger. I’m also told he had a great memory and always remembered anyone he met and the details of their lives and families. That’s the sign of a selfless person who truly cares about others, and that trait was incredibly important to his work with his line crew.
We are so used to flipping the switch and having the lights come on that we take for granted all the work that goes on behind the scenes for all of us to receive the benefits of electricity. But the lights come on not as the result of some kind of magic, but as the result of the hard, and often hazardous, work performed by thousands of utility workers across the state.
The loss of Larry Shaffer will be felt most deeply by his family: his wife, Jo; children Dane, Cole and Stefanie; and two grandchildren Hannah and Blake. He will also be deeply missed by other members of his family, by his many friends and co-workers and by his church community.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shaffer family, the Holy Cross Energy family and the friends and families of the other victims of this tragic accident.