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Old 04-20-2017, 09:00 AM   #1
Old Sarge
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Default Dad warns about electric shock drowning after teen's death

CBS News

20 April 2017

Dad warns about electric shock drowning after teen's death

The parents of 15-year-old Carmen Johnson, who tragically died from electric shock drowning while swimming near her family’s Alabama lake house last April, are speaking out about the rarely reported phenomenon after it took the lives of two more local women this past weekend.

The two women, 34-year-old Shelly Darling and 41-year-old Elizabeth Whipple, went missing after sunbathing on Lake Tuscaloosa Friday afternoon.

Their bodies were retrieved from the lake early Saturday morning. Preliminary autopsies for the two victims show the cause of death as electrocution, the Tuscaloosa County Homicide Unit told CBS affiliate WIAT on Wednesday.

“I’ve been around water all my life and I never thought that electricity in a huge body of water like that could do what it did,” Carmen’s father, Jimmy Johnson, 49, told CBS News. “It is something that even people like me now after all these years never had any idea that this even happened.”

Every day, about 10 people in the U.S. die from accidental drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But electric shock drownings are difficult to track. It’s known as a “silent killer.”

Even a low level of electric current in the water can be extremely hazardous or fatal to a swimmer — especially in freshwater, where experts say the voltage will “take a shortcut” through the human body.

“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,” the non-profit Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association reports.

In fact, Johnson says, he never would have known what happened to his daughter if he hadn’t felt the electric current himself while trying to jump in to save her.

Carmen playfully jumped off the top level of the family’s boat dock into Smith Lake with her friend Reagan Gargis on April 16, 2016. Jimmy Johnson lowered a metal ladder into the water so the girls could climb out. Minutes later, he heard Reagan scream, “Help!”

“My wife thought [Carmen] had done something to her neck, which paralyzed her,” Johnson said. “She started going underwater.”

That’s when Johnson and his son, Zach, jumped in the water after the girls and immediately felt piercing electric shocks.

“Cut the power off,” Johnson yelled to his wife as he started to go in and out of consciousness.

Johnson, Reagan and Zach survived, but Carmen didn’t make it.
“Carmen was grabbing [Reagan’s] leg and was getting the majority of the shock when I came over,” Johnson said.

Johnson later found a light switch at the dock that was half full of water. When he put the metal ladder into the water, the electrical current from the light switch traveled through the dock to the ladder and into the surrounding water, where the girls were swimming.

“As they were swimming toward the dock, within somewhere between the 5-to-10-foot range, is when they started feeling like they couldn’t swim,” Johnson recalled.

Johnson believes that if his family had been educated about electric shock drownings this might never have happened. Now he’s sharing Carmen’s story as a warning to others, along with tips to help prevent similar tragedies from occurring.

His safety tips include:
Use a plastic ladder, rather than a metal one, so it won’t help transfer electricity into 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 wiring around your dock, including your ground fault circuit breaker.

Purchase a Dock Lifeguard, a device that detects electricity on your dock and in the water around your dock. (Johnson works with the company to promote the product.)

“It’s every homeowner’s responsibility to make sure water is safe around their dock before they start swimming,” Johnson said. “People think ‘Oh, this is a freak accident. It’s not going to happen to me.’ And here we are now — 3 dead in a year.”
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Old 04-20-2017, 09:45 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing.

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Old 04-20-2017, 10:15 PM   #3
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BoatUS had info on this also:

http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/maga...-explained.asp
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Old 04-21-2017, 12:36 PM   #4
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If you have power at your dock, PLEASE use a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter). They are simple, cheap, very easy to install, and would prevent this sort of tragedy.
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Old 04-25-2017, 05:59 AM   #5
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So, if the power is 110v-15amps electric hazard discharge into Lake Winnipesaukee water, how many feet of water distance make it safe for a person in the water. How many feet of water distance reduce the electric hazard down to little or no shock effect ...... is it 10' or 25' or what ....and do you need to be standing on the lake bottom with bare feet to get a jolt?
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Old 04-25-2017, 07:40 AM   #6
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Read some of the links provided.

It seems the effect can vary from a tingling feeling, to paralysis, then drowning.

There are many factors involved. No, it seems you don't have to touch the bottom, or anything else to feel the effects.

I think it's good to discuss this and be aware of the possibilities as many of us never thought of this issue without these warnings.

New boats may come with ELCI breakers to help prevent this, but what about the thousands of boats that don't have this protection? What about the thousands of docks on the lake that have power for boats, lights or ice bubblers?
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Old 04-25-2017, 08:59 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave R View Post
If you have power at your dock, PLEASE use a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter). They are simple, cheap, very easy to install, and would prevent this sort of tragedy.
This is definitely a must! I also recommend a GFCI tester especially for outdoor outlets. You can buy them for a few bucks on Amazon and they are very simple to use, simply plug them into the outlet to confirm the GFCI is in fact working and not seized up or corroded. This is the one I have...

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

When I first bought my camp on Welch, we had outside power including outlets on the dock. Not a single outlet was a GFCI! We also noticed the wire supplying power to the dock was dislodged from under the dock and was in the water! Needless to say when we gutted the camp we had all new wiring and GFCI installed to ensure our and our guests safety.

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Old 04-25-2017, 09:22 AM   #8
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While many boat lifts are manually cranked up and down, some have a motor and can be powered by either a 12-v automobile battery, or by 110v house current. Running one with a 12-v battery doesn't have as much 'get up & go' as the 110v motor ...... but slow and steady will still lift up the boat for a month before recharging...and it is less electric hazard than use of 110v power.......... zap-zap-zap!
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Old 04-26-2017, 12:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by fatlazyless View Post
So, if the power is 110v-15amps electric hazard discharge into Lake Winnipesaukee water, how many feet of water distance make it safe for a person in the water. How many feet of water distance reduce the electric hazard down to little or no shock effect ...... is it 10' or 25' or what ....and do you need to be standing on the lake bottom with bare feet to get a jolt?
I've read that ~30' from the leakage source provides a decent buffer in 15' deep water, but it depends on the amount of leakage and the depth of water (shallow water needs less buffer, deep water needs more).

I don't think touching the bottom really matters. The issue is that humans have less electrical resistance than freshwater so more current will flow through them than the water around them. The bigger problem from what I've read isn't the risk of actual electrocution from a large jolt of current, it's the risk of drowning due to paralysis from a smaller amount of current.

http://www.electricshockdrowning.org/esd--faq.html
https://www.mikeholt.com/mojonewsarc...s~20040826.php
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Old 04-26-2017, 02:33 PM   #10
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Well I must say that this amateur electrician know it all has learned something here with this link I provided. If you told me a simple few milliamps could kill you in water I would have said your nuts. And that salt water for the most part will not allow enough current to pass through you. Good info here.
http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/maga...-explained.asp
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Old 04-26-2017, 02:38 PM   #11
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Well I must say that this amateur electrician know it all has learned something here with this link I provided. If you told me a simple few milliamps could kill you in water I would have said your nuts. And that salt water for the most part will not allow enough current to pass through you. Good info here.
http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/maga...-explained.asp

Salt water is sort of like a Faraday cage in this regard. The current follows the path of least resistance so it goes around the human body in salt water.
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Old 04-26-2017, 02:58 PM   #12
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Salt water is sort of like a Faraday cage in this regard. The current follows the path of least resistance so it goes around the human body in salt water.
Not totally correct.
Salt-water is anywhere from 50 to 1,000 times more conductive than fresh water. The conductivity of the human body when wet lies between the two, but is much closer to saltwater than fresh. In saltwater, the human body only slows electricity down, so most of it will go around a swimmer on its way back to ground unless the swimmer grabs hold of something — like a propeller or a swim ladder — that's electrified
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Old 04-26-2017, 03:40 PM   #13
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Here's a video to watch that explains the issue which may help a bit for those that don't like to read or understand the electricity issues from an engineering point of view:



Source:
http://www.electricshockdrowning.org/
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Old 04-27-2017, 09:24 AM   #14
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Just heartbreaking to watch that. I'll be rechecking my pool GFI before opening this year for sure.
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Old 04-29-2017, 08:17 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by depasseg View Post
I've read that ~30' from the leakage source provides a decent buffer in 15' deep water, but it depends on the amount of leakage and the depth of water (shallow water needs less buffer, deep water needs more).

I don't think touching the bottom really matters. The issue is that humans have less electrical resistance than freshwater so more current will flow through them than the water around them. The bigger problem from what I've read isn't the risk of actual electrocution from a large jolt of current, it's the risk of drowning due to paralysis from a smaller amount of current.

http://www.electricshockdrowning.org/esd--faq.html
https://www.mikeholt.com/mojonewsarc...s~20040826.php
We experienced that "smaller amount of current".

The cottage had been fitted with an inadequate copper grounding rod, and the current followed the water pipe "path" into the shallows. From about six feet away, as you waded towards the water pipe, you could increasingly feel the current. You would then feel your strength ebbing away!

New grounding rods advertise a 30-year service life.

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Old 04-30-2017, 10:34 AM   #16
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Might be a good idea to get one of the detectors that warn of potentially dangerous conditions if all else (GFCI) fails....

http://www.shockalert.com/order-shock-alert/

http://www.docklifeguard.org

https://shockalarm.com

Though any of the above will detect an unsafe condition, if the unsafe condition triggers while someone is already nearby in the water, then it's too late. Would be good to keep people away from an unsafe condition or at least confirm safe before entering water.
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Old 06-18-2017, 09:59 AM   #17
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Sadly its happened again. One of the featured stories on Good Morning America today. Almost hard to believe that this can happen by "what would seem like innocently" but incorrectly bringing electricity to the waters edge. I have to admit for years I would charge my boat batteries on the dock and never gave it a second thought about the potential danger it created "in" the water.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/auth...rowns-48113815
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Old 06-18-2017, 10:06 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Top-Water View Post
Sadly its happened again. One of the featured stories on Good Morning America today. Almost hard to believe that this can happen by "what would seem like innocently" but incorrectly bringing electricity to the waters edge. I have to admit for years I would charge my boat batteries on the dock and never gave it a second thought about the potential danger it created "in" the water.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/auth...rowns-48113815
The video made it sound like GFCI are not required! Is that true? If so that is just crazy!

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Old 06-18-2017, 11:09 AM   #19
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www.shockalarm.com sells for 90-dollars, and is a floating device with a light that lights up for detecting faulty wiring, voltage currents in the water.

How's about a Marine Patrol inspection safety test: by towing one of these shock alarms from a paddled Marine Patrol kayak in and around likely leakage spots such as marinas, yacht clubs, and town docks! And, name it, the kayak, the M.V.P. ...... for Marine Voltage Police!

Like....oh nooooo....here's comes the M.V.P. on an unannounced inspection visit to the town dock......so quick....turn off the breaker before we get busted for our 30-year old wiring set-up which probably has leaks that we don't even know about.

You know the NH Dept Environmental Services has a public swim pool & hot tub inspector who will show up, unannounced, and test the public pools and hot tubs, located in hotels, clubs, schools, but not medical facilities, for proper chemistry and a max temp of 104 for hot tubs ..... so maybe they could add one of these shock alarms to their list of places to test for testing Lake Winnipesaukee.

The MP can buy a small blue kayak from Wal-Mart for about $138, start up a voltage leakage test program, and start issuing safety violation citations for unsafe voltage leaks.

Should it be done by the Marine Patrol, or the Dept Environmental Services or who?

Is this voltage leak issue a real safety issue or just a joke or what?

What the State of N.H. needs is to find a volunteer with a kayak who will spend the entire summer paddling all over, around, about, up & down, on Lake Winnipesaukee, towing one of these 90-dollar voltage testers, who would report all leaks to the appropriate authority ...... that's the NH way! ...... zap! And, who is the appropriate authority?

www.docklifeguard.org click on 'horror stories' for a real jolt of a story ..... ho-ho-ho ...... zap!
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Old 06-19-2017, 08:45 AM   #20
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Default And sadly another incident

http://www.nj.com/ocean/index.ssf/20...art_river_home

Happened here in Jersey.
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Old 06-21-2017, 09:33 AM   #21
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Default Great information

This is a great thread. I'v forwarded the video to family and friends that have camps on the lake. It'll make you think twice about electrical safety near the water.

Thanks for posting
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Old 06-21-2017, 01:26 PM   #22
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This is a great thread. I'v forwarded the video to family and friends that have camps on the lake. It'll make you think twice about electrical safety near the water.

Thanks for posting
Agreed. I just bought a Shock Alert. Thanks, Old Sarge!
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Old 06-21-2017, 06:32 PM   #23
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Well ...... it certainly looks like the www.shockalarm.com has raised its price from $89.99 to 129.99 since my June 18 post ..... my my my! ... and since I posted this yesterday, the price info added the extra caveat of 'reg price $149 ..... sale price 129 ..... save now!'

Sales must be picking up or something, and someone is raising their price ....... caveat emptor?

This seems like the type of an item one could buy for $19.94 or maybe 29.94 in Walmart ..... and Walmart has great returns policy, too.
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Old 06-22-2017, 09:51 AM   #24
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Glad I watched that.........such a sad story but I'm going to check all wiring on the dock.
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Old 06-22-2017, 02:15 PM   #25
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I'm in the electrical industry, and received this newsletter from Mike Holt.

It's worth reading.

https://www.mikeholt.com/newsletters...&letterID=1783
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