10/28/2011 09:57 am ET | Updated Dec 27, 2011

Electrocution Victim Died In Attempt To Steal Copper Wire From Live Power Lines, Police Say

Police say a man who was fatally electrocuted Wednesday night likely died during a failed attempt to steal copper wire from a utility pole.

Lockport Township Fired Protection District personnel responded at 9:22 p.m. Wednesday to a report that a person appeared to be on fire, Battalion Chief Paul Hertzmann told Fox Chicago. An alarm that had been installed after a rash of recent copper thefts in the area notified police officers, but crews could not immediately approach the man, who fell about 20 feet to the ground and appeared to be dead on the scene, because the ground around him was "electrified," Hertzmann told Fox. ComEd workers were called to shut off the power before the victim could be approached.

The victim has not yet been identified, and doing so will be a challenge because of his extensive burns, Will County Coroner Patrick K. O'Neil told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"It looks like he was thrown from the (utility) pole and his hands had a lot of thermal injuries. Getting fingerprints for identification will be difficult," O’Neil told the Sun-Times.

Police believe the man had attempted to cut the power, but accidentally came in contact with a live wire that ignited and threw him from the pole, Fox reports.

Copper theft has been on the rise, the Sun-Times reports, with most local departments reporting stolen pipes from foreclosed homes, catalytic converters lifted from parked cars and wiring taken from utility towers, railroad crossings and construction sites.

As of Thursday afternoon, local police have not received any missing persons reports that matched the victim. Anyone with information is asked to call the coroner’s office at (815) 727-8455.