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Electric Shock Drowning - A Silent Killer

Two Alabama women, 34-year-old Shelly Darling and 41-year-old Elizabeth Whipple went missing after sunbathing on Lake Tuscaloosa on April 16. Their bodies were recovered from the lake the following morning. According to preliminary autopsies the cause of death was determined to be electrocution. One year ago the fatal electrocution drowning of 15 year-old Carmen Johnson, also of Alabama, made national headlines.

Accidental drowning takes about ten lives per day in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because of the difficulty of tracking electrical shock drowning (ESD), it has become known as a silent killer.

How Does Electrical Shock Drowning Happen?

Many people who have spent their lives around water are unaware of the danger of ESD. Equipment from a dock, boat or bulkhead lighting can allow electric current to enter the water. Faulty wiring from pool equipment can also be a cause. Almost all ESD happens in fresh water from AC (alternating current). When the current is in the water it will naturally travel to ground. Because a person's body is a better conductor than the fresh water, the current will use the body as a conduit. The human body has conductivity close to that of salt water, which is 50 to 1000 percent more conductive than fresh water according to BoatUS. In salt water, the current will usually travel around the body on its way to ground. The higher voltage of AC, along with its pulsating current makes it far more dangerous than DC. No cases of ESD from DC have been recorded. ESD may be responsible for more fatal drowning than realized.

Preventing ESD - What You Can Do

The chances of electric shock drowning can be significantly reduced, by following some simple preventative measures:

· Raise the awareness of people, especially children, to the dangers of swimming around docks and boats

· Do not enter or allow others to enter the water without shutting power to a dock

· Have a qualified, licensed electrician inspect swimming pool lighting and equipment regularly

· Never swim in a fresh water marina

· Never swim within one hundred yards of a dock unless you are certain it has no electric wiring.

· Be sure both your dock and boat are equipped with GFI-ELCI and have it tested annually.

· Only use extension cords for shore power that are UL listed for wet locations.

If you feel a tingle while you are in the water, do not swim toward the dock. Try to remain upright and back away. Alert others to stay out of the water. Try to reach the shore at least one hundred yards from the dock.

Should you discover someone in a pool, lake or other body of water that is possibly the victim of electric shock drowning, follow this rule; Reach, Throw or Row but Don't Go. Shut off any source of power nearby. If you are not sure, shut it off anyway.

Learn CPR. ESD victims are good recipients of CPR and you may, one day, save a life.

ESD Caused by Negligence

When electricity enters the water it is often due to negligence. In the case of 15-year-old Carmen Johnson, it was an electrified ladder that was lowered into the lake. The negligence may be on the part of an electrical inspector, a motel or resort owner, a pool equipment manufacturer or a combination of individuals or a company. Guests at any public hospitality facility, waterpark, recreation area or marina should expect that reasonable precautions have been taken to ensure their safety. When negligence of another party causes injury or death, the injured party or the deceased loved ones, should retain the services of an experienced premise liability attorney. The qualified attorney will possess the necessary skill to determine who was at fault when the accident occurs.

If electric shock injured you, or a loved one was lost, contact the personal injury firm of Vititoe Law Group for a free consultation. We will fight to recover the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering and loss.

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