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Pioneer serviceman fatally injured

A Pioneer Electric Cooperative serviceman responding to a power outage in Wilcox County was fatally injured Monday morning when he was struck by a vehicle. Julius &uot;Smitty&uot; Blackwell, 52, of Tyler, Alabama, a 20-year veteran based out of Pioneer’s Selma office, was fatally injured.

&uot;Two Pioneer Electric Cooperative employees had responded to a power outage near the Carlowville community in Wilcox County. They were attempting to restore power when one of them was struck by a log truck,&uot; said company spokesman Terry Wilhite. The incident occurred about one mile north of the Ala. Highway 21, County Road 89 intersection near Carlowville.

&uot;A huge oak tree’s roots gave way, toppling onto the roadway blocking both lanes of traffic and knocking down a power line. State road crews and the Pioneer servicemen were trying to get the tree removed when a log truck came over the crest of a hill and up on the fallen tree. State crews and the other Pioneer employee were able to get out of the way, but Smitty was not,&uot; Wilhite said.

Pioneer’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, Malloy Chandler, says words aren’t adquate to express the company’s loss. &uot;We’ve never lost one of our employees to an accident in the more than 30 years I’ve been manager,&uot; Chandler said. &uot;We’re all hurting deeply. We’ve lost a friend and a real hero who was serving his fellow co-op members when he lost his life.&uot;

&uot;Although he was based in Selma, we’re one company. He was close to us all in at our Greenville office,too,&uot; Chandler said.

&uot;Some often lose sight of the fact that our linemen and servicemen put themselves in harm’s way every day to ensure reliable power. Our prayers are with his family. Our employees are heroes, a strong group of men and women who bravely face the storms of life. This one is especially difficult, however,&uot; Chandler said.

Pioneer Electric Cooperatives serves some 14,000 residents in Butler, Dallas, Lowndes and Wilcox Counties.