BLACKFOOT – A tragic accident involving an electrically charged canal has claimed the lives of an Idaho State University track coach and two would-be rescuers Thursday night north of the Groveland area. Killed were Jackie Poulson, 31, Michael Lance Hicks, 41, and Preston Keith Tarpley, 49, all from the Blackfoot area.
According to the Bingham County Sheriff's Office, it received emergency call about 9:30 p.m. asking for assistance to locate a missing person near a home at 330 N. 345 W. Poulson had been missing for three hours after leaving that home to look for the family dog. When she didn't return, a group of neighbors and family began looking for Poulson.
When six Bingham County deputies and 15 members of the county search and rescue team arrived they combed the area and found the three victims and Poulson's dog in a nearby irrigation canal.
A news release from the Bingham County Sheriff said Poulson had apparently entered the canal to get her dog when the two of them were electrocuted by a shorted out irrigation pump located near the home. At some point, Hicks and Tarpley entered the canal in an attempt to rescue Poulson and they too were electrocuted.
Idaho Power crews responded to the area and immediately cut power so the bodies could be recovered. An investigation into the electrocutions continues.
Poulson was an assistant track coach at ISU and had been a part of the university's athletic program for 12 years. She attended school and competed as a track and field student-athlete before becoming a coach.
“She was the pride of our program,” Idaho State track and field coach Dave Nielsen said. “She was like daughter to me. This is so untimely and tragic that I just don’t know what else to say.”
Poulson was going into her ninth year as an assistant coach where she assisted coach Dave Nielsen in training multi-event athletes. Poulson was a two-time All-American and Big Sky champion in the heptathlon. She also served as the recruiting coordinator for the track and field team. She holds the Idaho State University records in the 400-meter hurdles and coached All-American Cassie Merkley who broke Poulson’s heptathlon record during the 2008 season.
She was a participant in the Olympic Trials in 2004 and has competed in the Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Italy. She also competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials taking eighth in the heptathlon with 5,741 points. Poulson scored a career-high 5,538 points in the heptathlon while at ISU and has scored a personal best of 5,804 points in post-collegiate competition.
Poulson is from American Falls, where she attended American Falls High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Idaho State University in 2003.
She was working on her master’s in health education and getting her teacher’s certificate.
“Jackie Poulson influenced the lives of so many of our student-athletes in such a positive manner,” Idaho State Director of Athletics Jeff Tingey said. “She was a true Bengal and an example to us all.”