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Track coach, two men, 1 dog electrocuted in Idaho irrigation canal

An assistant track and field coach for Idaho State University who tried to save the family dog from an irrigation ditch and two men who went into the canal in an attempt to rescue her were electrocuted, officials said Friday.


Bingham County officials found the bodies Thursday evening about three miles northwest of Blackfoot in southeastern Idaho, according to NBC station KPVI of Pocatello

Jacquelyn R. Paulson, 31, of Blackfoot, was reported missing about 9:30 p.m. after she failed to return from a search for the family dog, Bingham County Sheriff's Capt. Mark Crowley said. Paulson had been missing for about three hours, according to KPVI.

A group of neighbors and family members went looking for Paulson, and police sent out a reverse 911 call to surrounding residents alerting them about the missing person's report, KPVI reported. The search party expanded to include six deputies and 15 members from a search and rescue team, according to a sheriff's press release.

The search was called off around 10:50 p.m. when the bodies of three victims along with the dog were discovered in an irrigation ditch about 50 yards from the residence, KPVI reported.

Two Blackfoot residents, Michael Lance Hicks, 41, and Preston Keith Tarpley, 49, also died after apparently going into the water in an attempt to rescue Paulson, according to KPVI.

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An irrigation pump in the area had shorted out and was sending an electrical current through the water, deputies said. Idaho Power, a unit of IdaCorp Inc., shut off the power in the area so rescuers could recover the bodies, according to KPVI.

Paulson was going into her ninth season an assistant track and field coach at Idaho State. She was a two-time NCAA All-American in the heptathlon as a student at ISU and competed in the event in the Olympic Trials in 2004 and 2008, finishing eighth in 2008, according to the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. She also competed internationally, according to news reports.

"She was the pride of our program," ISU head track and field coach Dave Nielsen said in a statement. "She was like a daughter to me. This is so untimely and tragic that I just don't know what else to say."

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