SAN DIEGO, CA — Metal bus stop shelters throughout San Diego County will be off limits for public transit riders until authorities determine what caused the electrocution of a man who was waiting for a bus in the downtown Gaslamp District.

"We should try to figure out why did this happen, and let's make sure it never happens again," said Councilman Juan Vargas, who demanded Tuesday that the 475 shelters be closed. "If someone's going to sit down on either a park bench or a city bus bench, they need to know it's safe."

"He was shaking, smoke was pouring out of him ... He was being cooked alive."

Brian Williams, 20, of San Diego was electrocuted Sunday night while sitting on a metal bench at the lighted bus shelter in the city's downtown tourist district.

Glenn Newman, who by chance is an electrician, tried to pry Wilson loose from the metal grate, but the estimated 5,000-volt current was too great.

"I thought it was a car on fire so I ran to see if I could help, and I saw him," said Newman, who was visibly distraught when recalling the accident. "He was up against the fence, he was shaking, smoke was pouring out of him. He was being electrocuted. He was being cooked alive."

Newman shouted at people standing nearby to give him a stick or something to pry Wilson loose, but he said no one did anything for more than five minutes.

Firefighters used a wooden pole to free the man; later city electricians turned off the power supply.

Newman began kicking the back of the bus enclosure as someone ran down the street to flag down a police officer, who called firefighters. Firefighters used a wooden pole to free the man and city electricians later turned off the power supply around the enclosure.

Officials with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development agency said their investigation into the death will be handed by Phoenix-based Outdoor Systems Advertising and its subcontractors. The company is responsible for installing and maintaining San Diego's bus shelters for the past eight years.

Outdoor Systems Advertising, one of the largest transit shelter providers in the country, began shutting off electricity to bus stop shelters Tuesday. Each one will be inspected by a team of engineers by Wednesday.

One of the engineers hired by the company investigated a similar accident in Dade County, Fla., in October in which a 12-year-old boy died. That accident was attributed to shoddy workmanship by an unlicensed electrician employed by a county contractor. The worker and company officials are awaiting trial on criminal charges.

San Diego officials are also conducting their own investigation.

Neither the San Diego transportation agency nor city officials could cite any independent electrical inspections ever being performed on any of the 475 shelters.

"For $50 worth of parts, whoever owns it could have saved this guy's life."

Newman, a civilian electrician employed by the California Air National Guard, said he briefly examined the electrical system at the shelter and found it lacked a circuit breaker that would have cut off the current immediately after a short.

"For $50 worth of parts, whoever owns it could have saved this guy's life," Newman said.

The city's preliminary analysis confirms Newman's observation, Deputy City Manager George Loveland said.

"My understanding is it was fused but didn't have a ground-fault interrupter that you or I have in our house," he said. "It's a switch, a breaker that shuts power off when there's a short circuit."