RPE: Myer death accidental

Riverside County sheriff's officials say the Scientology worker slipped and hit an electrical wire.

By Jose Arballo Jr.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise
July 7, 2000

The death of a woman who fell in a transformer vault at Golden Era Studios was an accident, sheriff's investigators have determined.

Stacey Myer, 20, died June 25 when she slipped as she climbed into the vault at the Church of Scientology complex near San Jacinto. Education and training films for the church are produced at the studio.

"She was someplace she should not have been," said Lt. Darryl Birney. "We have investigated this thoroughly, looked at the evidence, and concluded that it was an accident."

Birney said it appears Myer slipped or lost her balance and fell from a ladder leading into the vault, then grabbed a wire as she fell. Myer died instantly when she touched a 7,200-volt wire connecting two transformers in the 10-foot-by-10-foot vault, authorities said.

Myer suffered extensive burns over most of her body.

Birney said investigators do not know whether Myer slipped while climbing into or out of the vault. It is also unclear why Myer, employed as a maintenance and landscaping worker at Golden Era for several years, went inside the underground vault, Birney said.

Ken Hoden, manager of Golden Era Studios, had previously speculated that Myer may have gone into the vault to find out why a squirrel had died inside weeks before.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has not completed its investigation into worker safety issues, said division spokesman Dean Fryer.

Hoden said a security guard discovered Myer's body while investigating a power outage at the complex. He said Myer was seen about an hour before the accident and she was in good spirits.

Investigators received numerous calls, mostly from critics of Scientology, who suggested Myer's death was not an accident, Birney said. About six sheriff's employees, from detectives to evidence technicians, were involved in investigating the death, he said.

"We are confident this was nothing more than an accident," he said.

Jose Arballo Jr. can be reached by e-mail at jarballo@pe.com or by phone at (909) 654-0564.