It was nearing Christmas in 1982 when four East Texans took a sailboat onto Lake O’ the Pines. As they came into an inlet that lead to Johnson Creek, their mast hit overhead power lines. Electricity surged through the mast, to the boat itself, injuring one man, Steve Kattner of Longview, and killing G. Brockett Irwin.
“I remember we got a phone call from his secretary,” Irwin’s brother Thomas Irwin said. “She had trouble telling us what happened. I finally asked if he was in the hospital, if he was hurt, and she said ‘he’s dead.'”
It’s a phone call Irwin was reminded of after three Boy Scouts died from a similar weekend incident on the same lake.
Irwin says that when his brother’s boat hit the power lines, it wasn’t immediately clear what they hit.
“He thought they bottomed out,” he said.
Thinking that, Thomas Irwin says his brother immediately tried to put the boat in reverse. But when he reached for the motor and made contact, the electricity went through his body, killing him.
“When I saw his body later, it had little brown spots. All over it,” Thomas Irwin said.
Attorney Steve Kattner recalled the incident too.
“The electricity felt like it came through my arm and out my hand,” he said Monday.
Kattner and two others made it away from the incident alive. Since the incident, a lawsuit was settled and the electrical lines were raised. They are now well above the water, strung out, still away from the bridge that crosses the Johnson Creek inlet.
Irwin says that after this weekend’s incident occurred, his inbox and phone have received message from people all over, saying the incident reminded them about what happened to his brother.
“It was like I was right back there to that phone call so many years ago,” he said. “I didn’t know I could hold on to those kinds of feelings after so many years.”
He says what happened Saturday didn’t have to happen, and shouldn’t have happened.
“You should never have a lake with electrical lines going over open water,” he said.
KLTV 7 reached out to Upshur Rural Electric for comment on the 1982 incident. Their current president says he cannot speak to it directly, as it was well before his tenure.
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