Chesterton Tribune

Woman electrocuted in home by space heater

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A Chesterton woman died in her home Monday of electrocution after a space heater apparently arced as she was unplugging it.

Barbara Lynn Johnston, 60, of 435 S. Fifth St., was found in a closet of her home shortly before 1 p.m. by her daughter, Pam Cochran, and a family friend, Ed Hutson. Hutson, who had made arrangements to take Johnston to the airport that morning for a flight to Florida to join her husband, removed the hinges from the locked front door to gain entry to the home when his knocking went unanswered, Chesterton Police said.

Porter County Coroner Roger Kleist estimates that Johnston died around 9 a.m. His investigation of the scene indicates that Johnston had been running the space heater from a socket in the closet and attempted to unplug it while it was still on, he told the Chesterton Tribune, and that an arc was created between the plug and the socket and shocked her. In cases of electrocution, Kleist explained, the shock disrupts the heartís normal electrical rhythm and causes it to stop.

Johnston was fully clothed at the time of the accident and does not appear to have been wet, he added, and the space heater itself seemed to be in working order.

Police said that Johnstonís coffee pot and curling iron were both found to be on when investigators arrived on the scene.

Chesterton Assistant Fire Chief Mike Orlich said that appliances should always be turned off before plugging them in or unplugging them because their draw of electricity when activated is immediate and continuous.

A full obituary appears elsewhere in this edition of the Tribune.


Posted 12/19/2001