Man electrocuted as neighbours watch in horror during Sydney storms

A neighbour has described the devastating moment a father of three was electrocuted by a fallen powerline in Sydney's south-west last night.

Key points

  • The man's body could not be reached for an hour due to live wires
  • A cool change saw temperatures plunge by up to 15 degrees Celsius
  • Storms left thousands without power and ripped roofs from buildings

The 38-year-old man died in his driveway at Acacia Avenue in Punchbowl about 10:30pm following wild storms that had lashed the area and other parts of Sydney.

Neighbour Karen Adler said a number of residents heard a "massive, loud bang" and went outside to find electricity wires had come down.

"The guy has just come out of the house and walked into the driveway and he's pretty much walked into the wire," she said.

"We couldn't do anything.

"The boys were trying to throw things at the wire to try and get the wire off him but they couldn't touch him, they couldn't do anything.

"We knew that he was pretty much gone straight away."

Ms Adler said the man's family were screaming and in shock.

"[They're] a young family with three children, so we're all devastated," she said.

At the time of the incident it had been raining only lightly and there was no lightning.

Visibility was limited due to a power outage after the earlier storm, Ms Adler said.

The man and his family had not lived in the home for long, she said.

NSW Ambulance paramedics declared the man dead at the scene.

Delay getting to the body

Fire and Rescue NSW Superintendent Mick Henly said it took emergency workers an hour to get to the man.

A house with a car out the front

"There was a problem in getting to the deceased person because the power lines were still live, so the electrical authorities were called and there was a delay from isolating those power lines and making them safe before the emergency responders could get in there and assist the gentlemen," he said.

A report is being prepared for the Coroner.

Ausgrid said in a statement the cause of the incident had not yet been confirmed, but an investigation was underway.

"Our thoughts are with the family at this time," the statement said.

It reminded members of the public to assume that any fallen powerlines were live and to stand at least eight metres away.

'Mini cyclone' throws roof on car yard

A roof is missing from an industrial building with lots of debris on the ground

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Rob Taggart said a very strong cold front that came through in the afternoon caused temperatures to plunge by 15 degrees Celsius.

"In weather terms it was quite exciting with really warm and hot temperatures ahead of the change and then the change came through and a really dramatic shift in temps and at the same time quite a lot of thunderstorm activity in parts of the state," he said.

Albion Park on the south coast recorded the state's highest rainfall with 85mm, while 57mm fell at Merrylands west in Sydney's west.

Mr Taggart said the storms also featured "squally winds" and small hail in parts of Sydney.

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While the storm was not as severe as recent weather activity in Sydney, it cause significant damage in Smithfield, where the roof of a mechanical workshop tore off and landed next door onto a used car lot.

Peter Papas was filling up at a service station nearby when he heard a loud bang as the roof landed on several cars.

"It was like a movie scene — it was a like a mini cyclone had hit," he said.

Mr Papas said the storm, with small hail and strong wind, had caused flowers on sale outside the petrol station to blow away.

"It was pretty intense and it all happened in a matter of 10 minutes and then it stopped," he said.

Carmel Phillip from the State Emergency Services said they had responded to 390 calls for help, most due to roof damage, leaking roofs and tree damage.

Wyong, Liverpool, Bankstown and Hornsby were among the worst-affected areas.

At the peak of the storm, 16,000 homes lost power, according to Endeavour Energy and Ausgrid.

As at 9:00am there were more than 550 homes still without power, including 430 homes in Gosford.

Cars can be seen poking out from a collapsed roof

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