A TEENAGER was last night lucky to be alive after he received an 11,000-volt shock and suffered serious burns as he allegedly tried to steal copper cables.

The 18-year-old received horrific burns to his head and arm on Saturday at an electricity substation in County Durham.

Newton Aycliffe firefighters were called to St Cuthbert’s Way, in the town, and found the Darlington man sitting on a wall near a petrol station.

Crew manager Andrew Bennett said he explained how he received his injuries as he was given oxygen and emergency first aid.

“He told me he had touched an electricity cable, caught fire and was clearly very badly burnt,” said Mr Bennett.

“What he has done is extremely dangerous, it easily could have been much worse than it was.”

The man was taken to the University Hospital of North Durham then transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle. His condition was described as seriously ill but stable last night.

Detectives are investigating a substation burglary in Durham Structures, in Hilton Way, Aycliffe Business Park.

Detective Inspector Simon Orton, of Durham Police, said: “This young man could have died. He will have to live with the consequences of his action for the rest of his life.”

He also warned of the dangers of interfering with electricity cables, saying: “People who go out to steal copper cabling carrying electricity are putting their lives at risk.

“We have had a number of these types of burglaries recently and we want to emphasise that the intruders are putting themselves in highly dangerous situations where death could result from dishonesty.”

CE Electric UK, which maintains the network, said metal thefts were on the increase in the region, and particularly in County Durham, which experiences more determined efforts from thieves who sell the metal to scrap merchants.

More than 800m of live street lighting cable was taken from Heugh Hall Row, Old Quarrington, near Durham City, about ten days ago and 700m were taken from Ushaw Moor, last Tuesday.

In Aycliffe, 79 homes briefly lost power as engineers replaced damaged equipment, but director of health and safety at CE Electric UK, Peter McCormick, said the consequences could have been much worse.

“To the untrained and uninitiated, substations are potentially fatal and the young man is very lucky to be alive,” he said.

“Each time one of our substations is broken into, up to 30,000 properties can be left without electricity.

“This isn’t just a huge inconvenience for everyone left scrabbling around in the dark, but for some people, like those who rely on dialysis machines, a power cut can result in serious health problems, or even death in extreme circumstances.

“It’s bad enough that copper thieves are prepared to put their own lives on the line, but their total lack of concern for the safety of others is unforgivable.”

A 19-year-old man, also from Darlington, was arrested, interviewed by officers and released on bail pending further inquiries.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 0345-60-60-36-5 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.