UPDATE: Tributes paid to jogger who died in freak power cable accident

TRIBUTES have been paid to a runner who died in a freak accident involving an 11,000 volt electricity cable which had fallen into a field.

Dr James Kew, 41, a member of Saffron Striders, was out jogging with three other people along the track between Ringers Farm and the Shortgrove Estate in Newport when he suffered severe burns after coming into contact with a high-voltage cable.

The discharge of electricity set fire to the surrounding cornfield.

Emergency services were called to fields off Debden Road at around 8.40pm on Tuesday night (July 24) but Dr Kew, of Radwinter Road, Ashdon, was pronounced dead at the scene. Paramedics treated two other people for minor electric shocks.

In a statement, the running club paid tribute to Dr Kew, a top scientist, who died just two days before his 42nd birthday.

Striders chairman Nigel Coates said: “Everyone at the club is absolutely devastated by James’ death and our thoughts go to his family at this incredibly difficult time.

“His greatest achievement during his time with the Striders was no doubt at this year’s London Marathon. It was the first marathon he had ever run and he had predicted he would finish in what would have been an excellent time of three and a half hours.

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“In fact, on the day he completed the race in an astonishing 3 hours 5 minutes, which made him the first Strider to finish and in a time that really was testament to just how good a runner he was.

“James was quiet and unassuming and a very popular member of the Striders who will be deeply missed.”

Dr Kew was a director of biology at the Centre of Excellence for External Drug Discovery, a research and development arm of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, based in Stevenage.

He had a BSc in biological sciences from the University of Exeter and a PhD in developmental neuroscience from the University of Cambridge.

A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline said: “James Kew was a respected scientist and valued colleague in our Research and Development organisation. Our thoughts are with his friends, family and his GSK colleagues at this extremely difficult time.”

Newport resident Peter Ascott, of Tenterfields, told the Reporter yesterday that he had seen the cable down earlier in the day while he was out walking with a group of about 10 people at 6.30pm on Tuesday.

He said he could not believe it when he heard what had happened and wished he had reported it.

“We saw the cable hanging down in the field but didn’t think anymore of it. When I woke up in the morning and saw the news on TV all I could think about was maybe if we had said something it could have prevented this tragedy,” he added.

“But we assumed because it was down it had probably been reported and didn’t think for a second it was actually live.”

Reports from nearby residents in Newport suggest there was a power cut for around two hours on Tuesday afternoon.

Police and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service have launched a joint investigation into the incident and the Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

UK Power Networks engineers are also helping with an investigation into what happened and were still surveying the scene yesterday morning.

They were called to the incident at around 9.50pm on Tuesday night to isolate the power to the cable, with firefighters standing by as disconnection took place.

A spokesman for the firm would not confirm or deny reports that the cable had been reported down earlier in the day, or what safety mechanisms would have been in place on the cable and pylon.

Although a relatively new recruit, having joined in 2010, the Striders said Dr Kew quickly established himself as one of the club’s very best runners.

He also raised �1,500 for the Action Duchenne charity by completing the London Marathon.

Dr Kew finished 33rd in this year’s Hatfield Broad Oak 10k with a time of 37min 38sec – an event which included more than 1,000 competitors.

Bishop’s Stortford Hockey Club – of which Dr Kew was also a member – paid tribute on social network site Twitter.

“Very sad news about 4th XI and Vets player James Kew who sadly died in a freak accident whilst running yesterday. Condolences to Kew family.”

Gill Hodder, a member of the club, also tweeted: “James Kew – so sad – a true gentleman – condolences to his lovely family.”