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Electric shock drownings kill unsuspecting swimmers

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Sandra Rohrstaff
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Electric shock drowning? Have you ever heard of it? Here's a true story of a carefree summer day's turning tragic.

It’s June. School is finally out. Three friends are enjoying the freedom from school and the beginning of summer. The father of one of the teenage boys has allowed his son to take two friends out on the pontoon boat in the neighborhood lake for the first time.

It’s time for lunch, so they return to the house, tie the boat to the dock at the back of the house. Then, they connect the boat to the electricity at the dock to charge the boat’s battery. Two of the boys joyously jump into the lake near the boat for a quick swim before lunch. Boat at dock

And, they don’t come up. Even though they were both good swimmers, they drown.

How did that happen? Those boys didn’t jump into the water and suddenly forget how to swim. They didn’t hit their heads on some object beneath the surface that rendered them unconscious.

Before they drowned, they were electrocuted by stray electricity from the mis-wired electrical system on the boat. The DIY dad didn't know what he was doing when he rewired the boat.

Boats that are mis-wired allow electricity to leak out into the water. Water conducts electricity, so when electricity freely gets into water, the water is electrified. It's invisible. It doesn't make noise. You can't smell it. But you can tragically feel its effects if you are in electrified water -- it can cause paralysis or stop a beating heart.

As summer approaches and people flock to the outdoors for fun on the water, be wary of swimming near boats that are tied up to docks – at marinas and any other place where there are battery-operated boats and water. You can’t see electricity in the water, and you can’t see whether the electricity on the boat is wired correctly.

Here’s an informative article from Electrical Construction and Maintenance magazine that explains the phenomenon of electric shock drowning.

Faulty wiring of boats in marinas and on private lakes is preventable and should never happen.

Category: Injuries and Wrongful Death

Sandra Rohrstaff
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Virginia Child Injury and Elder Abuse Attorney

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