Florida Family Devastated After Puppy Dies From Stepping on Electrified Manhole With Wet Paws

Charlie and his family
Debbie McDermott

When Lynn McDermott set out to walk his Great Pyrenees puppy, Charlie, on the evening of Sept. 22, the rain had just stop falling. 

Lynn and his wife, Debbie McDermott, had gone to dinner earlier that evening to celebrate Lynn's birthday. Poor Charlie had been cooped up, so Lynn decided to take him for a longer walk than usual to give him some exercise. 

As they walked along the wet roads in their Sarasota, Florida, neighborhood, Charlie crossed over a manhole. The instant the dog's damp paws came into contact with the metal surface, he started twitching, then fell to the ground and began convulsing. 

Lynn, confused, bent to help the dog and suffered an electrical shock as he tried to move him. He then ran home for help.

When Debbie showed up, she had trouble reconciling what was before her. "I saw Charlie lying there," Debbie told InsideEdition.com in an emotional interview. "My first thought was he got hit by a car. There was no blood, so I didn't understand."

First responders desperately tried to save Charlie.

"The paramedics came, they tried compressions, they tried giving him oxygen," said Debbie.

But it was too late. Charlie was pronounced dead at the scene. 

As it turned out, the dog had stepped on an electrified manhole, the result of a burnt wire in an underground metal pull box touching the metal cover. Combined with the rain, the manhole became a lethal trap for anyone who might encounter it. 

Charlie just happened to be the unlucky one.

While the McDermotts are grieving the loss of their beloved pup, whom they'd only gotten four months earlier, they hope his death will help protect others from a similar fate. 

"It's a safety issue [that needs to be addressed]. It should have never happened," said Debbie. "Charlie didn't die in vain. ... We can be mad and angry and bitter, but it wont bring Charlie back."

Shortly after Debbie and Lynn married earlier this year, they decided to get a puppy. They'd planned to get a girl, but the moment she saw Charlie, Debbie knew he was the one. 

"Charlie came to me," she said. "He was the one that came right to me."

And she thinks there was a higher purpose behind that.

"They're protectors," she said of the Great Pyrenees. "That night ... with his last breath, Charlie protected my husband. He saved his dad. My husband had to walk Charlie on left side because he'd had surgery on his right shoulder.

"Normally [Lynn] walks him on the right," she added. "It could've been my husband. Charlie — he did protect him."

The City of Sarasota said the wire in question has since been repaired, adding that "staff are performing precautionary safety inspections on other boxes in the vicinity."

Nowadays, pull boxes, which house electrical connections, are typically made of fiberglass or concrete to prevent conduction in the event of an exposed live wire. But hundreds of old metal pull boxes are estimated to be scattered through Sarasota, city spokesman Jason Bartolone told News Channel 8

"We estimate there are about 500-600 of the metal pull box lids within the City, about half belonging to the City and about half, like the one in question here, FDOT’s," Bartolone said in a statement. "We look for opportunities to replace the city’s metal boxes with concrete or fiberglass kinds whenever possible and as sidewalk improvement projects arise."

FDOT, the Florida Department of Transportation, told News Channel 8 in a statement: "FDOT was just recently made aware of this. The Department will work with our partners at the City of Sarasota, who maintain the lighting in that area, to get more information about the incident and determine if any future actions need to be taken."

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