Professional climbing instructor scales Dinkytown utility pole, is shocked and critically burned

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2013 - 9:42 PM

A professional climbing instructor went up an electric utility pole near the University of Minnesota late at night, touched live wires and was thrown to the ground in a burning and bloodied heap, authorities and a witness said.

Minneapolis police identified the man as Steven C. McKinney, 24, who grew up in Plymouth. “Police were told [McKinney] is an experienced climber,” said department spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington.

McKinney “climbed up the utility pole, came into contact with live wires, accidentally electrocuted himself and was knocked to the ground,” Barrington said. “The transmitter blew up, and power was knocked out to that area.”

A witness said that about 1:30 a.m. a man was on the ground in flames near the corner of 14th Avenue and 7th Street SE. in the Dinkytown neighborhood.

McKinney was in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.

His mother, June McKinney, said that her son has burns over 30 percent of his body, primarily on his torso and neck. “He can open his eyes,” she said. “He can squeeze a hand. It looks like he is going to make it.”

Steven McKinney lives near the accident scene and works at Vertical Endeavors, a fitness facility on Nicollet Avenue in south Minneapolis that offers indoor climbing experiences, his mother said. He is a graduate of Robbinsdale Armstrong High School and Winona State University.

“He won one competition in Warrenville, Illinois, while in high school,” she said. “He’s been climbing since he was 6.”

June McKinney was emphatic, saying, “never, no,” when asked whether her son had ever trespassed before to climb in urban settings.

As far as whether he had been drinking at the time, she said, “I asked the doctor if alcohol was involved, and he said no.”

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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