Thousands of Hargray Communications customers in the Bluffton area lost TV, Internet and telephone service for most of the day Thursday when a fiber-optic cable was accidentally cut.
Hargray officials said the line was severed by Cleland Site Prep workers digging near the intersection of S.C. 170 and U.S. 278. Hargray said it learned of the outage at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
"We are absolutely furious about this," said Gerrit Albert, vice president of sales and marketing at Hargray. "There were no (locator) flags on the site, meaning (the workers) went and dug without permission."
Cleland Site Prep crews accidentally cut the cable as part of the ongoing S.C. 170 widening project, which includes stormwater improvements and utility relocation, according to Cleland vice president Logan Crowther.
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No locator flags were in the area of the dig Thursday morning, but they should have been, Crowther said.
Locator services hired by utility companies place the flags to mark utility lines, and flag placement should be updated regularly, Crowther said.
"That area was supposed to be reflagged yesterday and was not," Crowther said. "... And we would expect that there would have been flags there if there was (a cable there)."
Crowther said he did not know what company was responsible for placing the flags. It's too early to say who was negligent in the incident, he added.
Hargray spokesman Robert Gilbert declined to comment on who was responsible for placing the flags.
Hargray hired investigators from the utility-location firm USIC on Thursday to do an independent review, said Chris McCorkendale, vice president of operations for Hargray.
"Right now, we're gathering all the details, and we still have some work to do," Albert said.
Most service had been restored by 5 p.m. Thursday, but crews were still making repairs, Hargray spokesman Robert Gilbert said. All service was expected to be restored by Thursday night, he added.
McCorkendale said in a news release that companies that dig without proper location flags in place "should be subject to fines, loss of permits and other penalties."
Hargray is "pursuing legal avenues," the release added.
"We've done everything we were legally required to do," Crowther responded. "We hate that it happened, but we'll meet with the Hargray people and hopefully get it sorted out."