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Electric Shock Drowning: A Silent Killer in the Water

Published on Jul 11, 2017 at 6:07 pm in Personal Injury.

The parents of a 15-year-old electric shock drowning victim are speaking out in an attempt to warn others and bring awareness to this rarely reported phenomenon.  Carmen Johnson was swimming near her family’s Alabama lake house in April of 2016, when electric current traveled from a light switch on the dock, through the water, and paralyzed her body.

Carmen and her friend were jumping into the water from the top level of the boat dock.  Her father, Jimmy Johnson, lowered a metal ladder into the water so the girls could climb out.  Just minutes later, he heard his daughter’s friend scream for help.  He jumped into the water and immediately felt the piercing electric shocks.

Johnson began going in and out of consciousness, but yelled to his wife standing on the dock to “cut the power off’.  He and his daughter’s friend survived, but his daughter, Carmen, did not.

Johnson later found a light switch at the dock that was half full of water.  When he placed the metal ladder into the water, the electric current traveled from the light switch to the ladder and into the surrounding water.  As the girls began swimming towards the ladder, in somewhere about the 5-to-10-foot range, they started to feel like they could not swim.

Recently, two women went sunbathing on a Friday afternoon near a house on Lake Tuscaloosa.  Their bodies were retrieved from the lake early Saturday morning.  The Tuscaloosa Homicide Unit told a local CBS News affiliate that preliminary autopsies show the cause of death was electrocution.

How Common is Electric Shock Drowning?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day about 10 people in the United States die from accidental drowning.  Electric shock drownings, however, are difficult to track.  Carmen’s father admits he would have never known what happened to his daughter had he not jumped into the water and felt the shock himself.

“There is no visible warning or way to tell if water surrounding a boat, marina, or dock is energized or within seconds will become energized with fatal levels of electricity,” says the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association.  Experts say that even a low level of electric current in the water can be extremely dangerous or fatal to a swimmer.  The phenomenon is especially dangerous in freshwater, where the voltage will likely take target and travel through the human body.

What Can Swimmers Do to Prevent Electric Shock Drowning?

Johnson and his family now work closely with the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association to educate swimmers and encourage the practice of these safety tips:

  • Use a plastic ladder, instead of a metal ladder, that will not help transfer electric current through the water.
  • If you start to feel a tingle in the water, swim away from the dock, which is where most electrical issues occur.
  • Check all of the electrical wiring around your dock, including the ground fault circuit breaker.
  • Purchase a Dock Lifeguard device that detects electricity on your dock and in the water around your dock.

Every homeowner and business has a responsibility to make sure the water around their dock is safe for swimming.  Failure to do so can put innocent lives at risk.

The legal team at Thomas Law Offices is dedicated to making the people of Kentucky aware of potential dangers involved in any activity.  Knowledge is often the first step towards prevention, and it is our desire to spread awareness and share safety tips with as many Kentucky residents as possible.

If someone you love has been the victim of electric shock drowning, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation of your case.  If someone else’s negligent behavior caused the accident to occur, a Louisville wrongful death lawyer can help your family recover damages and hold those at fault responsible.

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Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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