Details of 74 ESD Accidents

James D. Shafer

Capt. David E. Rifkin

Quality Marine Services, LLC

2418 Fallen Tree Drive West

Jacksonville, FL 32246



Electric Shock Drowning Incidents – Marinas© (In-Water electrocution fatalities included) Rev. 6/27/15


Jim Shafer, the originator of this list is currently unable to participate in this area. Contact David Rifkin for

more information.


Low level ground fault leakage in the marina AC shore power system can cause lethal potentials to appear on any underwater metal surface – either on a boat or on the dock. In fresh water the electric field

surrounding this surface can paralyze a swimmer. There is no warning that this condition exists, and it has resulted in a number of drownings. Further, there is no post-mortem evidence that electric shock was the cause. Therefore, many of the fatalities listed below are only the known electric shock caused drownings,

which were investigated because of circumstantial evidence, i.e., multiple deaths, eye witnesses,

considerable distress, cries for help, shock sensation reported by rescuers, etc.


Our studies have shown that, in salt water, the high voltage gradients required for electric shock drowning could not be established with the available fault current levels. In no cases can we attribute cause of death to electric shock drowning in salt water.

We do not know the exact wiring errors or ground faults that created some of the incidents listed below, but it can be assumed that an energized AC conductor (L1 or L2) came in contact with a bonded (grounded) metal object, and coincidently, this object was not connected to the shore bonding (grounding) system.

This caused a voltage to appear on these under-water metal objects (both on boats and docks). This created

a lethal electric field around the object (a person in this electric field can be paralyzed leading to drowning, or electrocuted directly). This was true in every case that was investigated.

No database has been found that catalogs “Electric Shock Drowning” – our term for this phenomenon. The incidents listed below came from various sources, i.e., investigation, press, third party, and eye witness reports. Dates and details are missing for some. There is no way to know what fraction of the total fatalities this listing represents, but it may be reasonable to assume that it could be small. We have no reports of fatalities in salt water due to electric shock drowning.

Some of the fatalities listed here were actually caused by ventricular fibrillation (electrocution), because the victim’s head was reported not to have been submerged. They are technically not drownings but are listed here since the causes are similar to drowning by electric shock.


Harbor Marine Consultants, Inc. Quality Marine Services, LLC




                                                       74 ELECTRIC SHOCK DROWNINGS


1. June 21, 2015 Lake of the Ozarks, Woods Hollow Cove, 22.2 mile marker, MO. A 21 year old

man and fellow swimmer felt electricity in the water near a dock. The 21 year old

grabbed a dock ladder to get out when he was electrocuted and fell back into the

water. Someone ran ashore and turned off the power likely saving the other man

in the water. A faulty junction box between dock and residence is suspected. The

occupants tried to reset the circuit breaker but it would trip after 10-15 seconds of

being turned on. The last attempt to turn the breaker on coincided with the 2

swimmers being near the dock as it got dark (breaker controlled dock lights).


2. Aug 24, 2014 Lake Bruin, Tensas Parish, LA. Two teenage girls were shocked when trying to

exit the water using a ladder on a pontoon boat. The 13yo died, the 17yo was

hospitalized. A faulty boat lift is blamed for energizing the ladder of the boat.


3. Apr 23, 2014 North Miami Beach, FL. A 7 year old boy was electrocuted at his home in the

family swimming pool. An older brother felt a shock and urge the victim and a

younger brother to get out. The victim did not hear his brother, and immediately

thereafter was killed. A rescuer performing CPR put his hand in the water and felt

a shock. A faulty swimming pool light is the likely cause of the accident. The

presence of a GFCI was not mentioned in the newspaper reports.


4. July 25, 2013 Ellijay, GA. A 19 year old girl was electrocuted after a power outage at a home

where she was watching a 5 year old girl. A power line came down about 25ft

from the house. She went outside to investigate the power outage and either

stepped in puddle of water or soggy ground. The voltage gradient from the

downed power line was enough to electrocute her.


5. July 19, 2013 Syracuse, NY. A 12 year old girl was electrocuted while filling an inflatable pool

in her backyard. Witness say she picked up an extension cord or electric pump

plugged into a receptacle, and began shaking. She then fell into the pool.

Rescuers received shocks trying to get her out of the pool. Although not

mentioned, it was likely that the receptacle was not protected by an operable GFCI

as required by the National Electric Code for all outdoor receptacles.


6. July 17, 2013 Davidson County, NC. An 11yo girl was electrocuted in a swimming pool. It was

reported that a power line wire came down in the parking lot near the pool. The

girl touched the ladder of the pool and was shocked. Rescuers trying to help the

girl were also shocked. Electricity was likely flowing from the downed wire into

the earth, and passed through the pool enroute to its source.


7 July 4, 2013 Eagle Lake in Orrick Township, Sherburne County, MN. A man was holding a

plugged-in battery charger while standing in 20” of water. He was preparing to

connect the charger to his houseboat. He slipped and immersed the charger which

resulted in a severe electrical shock. He died on 7 July. A woman who went to his

aid was also shocked and unconscious but was revived at the scene. It is unknown

whether the charger was properly grounded.


8. June 30, 2013 Pulaski County, KY, near South Fork of Lake Cumberland near Garland Bend. A

man swimming at a private dock reaches up to pull a ladder down to exit the lake.

The ladder contacted a frayed electrical wire energizing the ladder. The man was

electrocuted, but was able to move his 2yo son out of danger. Others felt shocks

trying to help the man.


9. May 20, 2013 Grayson County, KY, Rough River Lake. A 36yo man and one of his dogs were

lost near a marina boat slip. He jumped into the water when the dog was having

problems. Witnesses report the man’s eyes rolled back and he went under the

water suddenly. Inspectors found a shore cord (with a submerged coupling

between two cords) was energized and reported this was the cause of the

electrocution. The man was reportedly 10-15ft from the houseboat. They found

multiple NEC violations at the marina.


10. Sep, 2012 Americus, GA, South Georgia Technical College. A 19 year old woman was

electrocuted in a fountain pond while retrieving her young son’s ball. Efforts to

assist her were thwarted by others receiving electrical shocks. Investigators found

17 violations in the electrical supply to the pond. One month earlier another

student reported shocks (the pond was only drained and cleaned as a result).


11. Aug 30, 2012 Bingham County, Idaho. Two men and a woman were electrocuted in an

irrigation ditch. The woman went in to rescue a dog, and the 2 men tried to rescue

the woman. A faulty irrigation pump was responsible for this tradgedy.


12. Aug 22, 2012 Los Angeles, CA. A man speeding in a car hit a fire hydrant and electrical pole.

The energized from the pole ended up in the large puddle created by the broken

fire hydrant. 2 women were electrocuted when they entered the puddle to try and

assist the driver.


13. July 25, 2012 Tampico, IL. A 14 year old boy and girl were electrocuted while detasseling corn

in an IL cornfield. A lightning strike is suggested to have destroyed the

grounding system for an irrigation pump. A fault in the pump then leaked

electricity into the ground creating electrical gradients across puddles and other

wet areas.


14. July 25, 2012 Cohasset, MN, Pokegama Lake. Two men and a woman were shocked by an

extension cord in the water, presumably from a boat lift. One of the men could not

be revived and died. The other two were hospitalized in serious condition.


15. July 7, 2012 Lake of the Ozarks, MO. A 26 year old woman was swimming with her 2

stepbrothers when the brothers felt a tingling. The boys swam to one dock and

were unharmed. The woman swam to a different dock, apparently where there

was faulty wiring. She may have been electrocuted when she touched something

metallic on this dock. She could not be revived at the scene.


16. July 4, 2012 Lake of the Ozarks, MO. A 13 year old girl and her 8 year old brother were killed

by electricity while swimming near a private dock. Officials said the dock was not

protected by a GFCI as required. The electrical fault may have come from a boat

lift or a water slide pump.


17. July 4, 2012 German Creek Marina on Cherokee Lake, Bean Station, TN. A 10 year old and

11 year old boys were killed by electricity in the water at a TN marina while

swimming between 2 docked houseboats. An 8 year old girl also swimming with

the boys was shocked but pulled to safety. Several adults and another 12 year old

boy were shocked trying to rescue the 2 boys. Faulty houseboat wiring on one of

the boats is believed to be one of the causes.


18. June 27, 2012 Celebration, FL. An 11 year old girl was electrocuted when she reached into a

mini golf pond at an Orlando, FL resort to retrieve a golf ball. A man trying to

help her was also shocked. The cause was faulty pond pump that was not

protected by the required GFCI. Water came in contact with the pumps windings

and electrified the small cement pond on the mini golf course.


19. May 5, 2012 Lake Sinclair, Putnam County, GA. A 25-year-old woman was apparently

electrocuted when she reached from the water and touched either a box or bare

wire on the dock (it was being worked on at the time). Another woman in the

water was shocked when she pulled the 25 year old away from the dock and held

her head above water. She could not be revived at the scene.


20. Aug 15, 2011 Traverse City, MI, Clinch Marina. An 18 year old boy died in West Arm Great

Traverse Bay when an electrical fault (reportedly from dock wiring) caused

current to enter the water where the boy and a friend were swimming. The friend

reported feeling electricity in the water. “No Swimming” signs were posted in

some locations in the marina.


21. May 28, 2011 Lake City, MN. A 50 year old man was electrocuted in Lake Pepin near a boat lift

which had exposed wiring. His dog was in the water and was shocked and began

to sink. Another man jumped in to rescue the dog but was shocked (he escaped

the water). The 50 year old man then jumped in for his dog and appeared to have

been electrocuted.


22. July 26, 2010 Lake Freeman, Carroll County, IN. A 13 year old boy was swimming with 3 other

children when they started to feel a tingle. The 13 year old attempted to exit the

water at the dock but fell back into the water. The other children managed to exit

the water. A water-soaked electrical junction box was located on the dock nearby

and is the likely source for the electrical current in the water.


23. Removed


24. July 10, 2010 York, SC. A 54 year old man died after jumping into a swimming pool to help his

granddaughter. The granddaughter was receiving a shock from the pool’s railing

when the man jumped in to help her. He grabbed the pool’s railing and reportedly

“stuck” to it. His grandson reported that he had felt electricity in his chest when

near the edge of the pool (until a light was turned off). Electric shock is the

probable cause of death.


25. June 21, 2010 Smith Lake, Birmingham, AL. A 16 year old boy was climbing a dock ladder

when he suddenly fell back into the water. He was immediately unresponsive

when recovered by friends. Electrocution (from an energized dock ladder) is

suspected as a possible cause of death.


26. June 2010 Lake Waccamaw, NC. A boy was killed swimming near a boat lift. A the owner

was told by another child that he was feeling tingles in the water. The owner

reached up, touched the boat lift and was shocked. He told the other kids to get

out of the water. After exiting he noticed one boy face down in the water. He

could not be revived at the scene. There was an open ground in the lines from the

house to the dock, and one of the small junction boxes under the dock was filled

with water. The cause may have also been a fault to the lift motor.


27. May 29, 2010 Stonewall Jackson Lake, WV. A 15 year old boy was climbing onto the swim

platform of a boat. When he touched the ladder he received an electrical shock

and he fell back into the water and reportedly drowned. A girl still in the water

felt the shock and was treated and released from a local hospital. Cause was

improper repair of the pedestal end of shore cord (hot and ground were reversed).

It is likely this was an electrocution rather than a drowning.


28. August 23,2008 Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs, AR. 14 year old girl swimming near a metal swim

ladder with a 7 year old boy and his mother near by. Without warning the boy

began to scream and his mother became incapacitated on the swim ladder. As the

girl attempted to help the boy she sank out of sight. The boy’s father pulled him to

safety and helped his wife onto the dock. Preliminary investigation revealed an

unbonded metal pole, welded to the dock, on which was mounted a halogen light,

which had just been turned on by its photo cell, and had an AC fault due to chafed

wires which energized the dock frame and ladder. Boy and mother required

hospitalization. Voltage to ground on the ladder measured at 103 VAC. The girl

was recovered later that night.


29. July 28,2007 Lake of The Ozarks, MO Twenty four year old female attempted to exit the water

using a metal ladder at the end of a private dock. She apparently experienced a

paralyzing electric shock which caused her to fall back into the water and drown.

Several people had reported being shocked by the ladder and the dock owner had

gone to shut the power off. The dock power wiring termination was found

submerged under the dock near the exit point.


30. July 24, 2006 Lake Lanier, Cumming, GA. Seventeen year old boy in water near a private dock,

working on a jet ski with two friends, was overcome by electric shock. Extension

cord with damaged insulation caused the metal dock to become energized. Friends

also shocked, and partially disabled, could not help their friend. Father of victim

fought paralyzing shock and pulled unconscious son away from dock – he could

not be resuscitated. Investigation planned.


31. July 14, 2006 River Street Marina, Port Huron, MI. A 20 year old man jumped, or fell, into the

water from the pier behind a 29’ boat, moored stern too. He became disabled as he

attempted to climb onto the swim platform. Two friends attempting to pull him

onboard reported being shocked. He could not be resuscitated. Shock induced

ventricular fibrillation likely cause of death. The next day an inspector reported

107vac in the water behind the boat. Subsequent investigation confirmed the

voltage behind the boat. The cause was an AC to DC fault in the battery charger

energizing the underwater gear and no AC to DC bonding connection.


32. June 24, 2006 Brady Mountain Resort, Lake Quachita, Hot Springs, AR. A 14 year old boy died

from electric shock while swimming near a houseboat. A friend was also shocked

and taken to a hospital and released. A man jumped in to help and was rendered

unconscious but was unharmed after regaining consciousness. The cause appeared

to be inserting a shore cord with a 30A/125V (L5-30) plug (with the grounding pin

bent back) into a 50A-125/250V receptacle in such a way so as to energize the

neutral, which was connected to the bonding system, thereby energizing the hull.


33. June 10, 2006 Lake Michigan, Racine Harbor, WI. A 56 year old man was killed when he went

swimming from the stern platform of a boat. Inquest listed death as "Accidental

Electrocution" and did not establish a root cause. Victim's wife stated that the

Reverse Polarity light flickered on and went out when power applied to vessel.

Comment: A reverse polarity situation along with a grounded neutral can energize

underwater metals on a boat.


34. May 22, 2006 Weiss Lake, Cherokee County, AL. A 24 year old young man was killed while in

the water near a pier. He was attempting to rescue his friend who had become

paralyzed by an electric shock while trying to exit the water via a metal ladder.

Another friend was also disabled by shock as he entered the water to assist. The

two young men, who were shocked, were not seriously injured. There was an

electric windmill on a metal tower attached to the ladder, and was apparently

powered by an incorrectly modified extension cord, and which may have been

connected to a non-functioning GFCI outlet. A bystander on the dock pulled the

power cord just in time, or there may have been two more victims. Investigation



35. Mar 18, 2006 Summerset Lake near Desoto, St. Louis, MO. In the early evening a teenage boy

became paralyzed by electric shock, and drowned, while attempting to swim

toward a metal ladder attached to a private dock. Two friends were rendered

unconscious but were resuscitated and required hospitalization. During several

investigations, initially and over the next months, it was determined that the dock

wiring was properly installed, the metal dock frame and ladder were bonded, and

no loads were operating at the time of the accident. However, clamping the dock

supply cable with an AC ammeter disclosed 10 amps flowing (likely in the ground

wire) and 4-6 VAC was measured approximately 2 ft. away from the ladder on

several separate occasions. The subsequent legal action resulted in a jury finding

the local utility at fault. It seems that a near-by underground power distribution

cable had a defective (or missing) neutral which caused the neutral current to seek

a path back to the substation through the earth and into the lake. This earth leakage

current concentrated at the bonded swim ladder resulting in a lethal gradient of

more than 2 V/Ft near the ladder. These earth leakage currents are fairly common

but this is the first serious incident we have recorded due to this phenomenon.


36. June 27, 2005 Scott’s Creek Marina at Cave Run Lake, Moorhead, KY. A 19 year old girl

drowned, while in the water near a houseboat, due to electric shock caused by a

battery charger in the engine compartment which had become partially submerged

and energized the hull. Owner had rewired the boat with no bonding system.

Another girl sustained burns on her legs while reaching into the water to help the

victim. A nearby rescuer swam toward the scene and was shocked and paralyzed

by the electrical field. Only two feet from the victim he had to turn around and

swim out of the field to survive.


37. Sept. 2004 Lake Of The Ozarks, MO 22 year old male stepped on an electrical cable upon

exiting the water after swimming behind a private residence – fell face down into

water unconscious – could not be revived. No information on cable.


38. Sep 13, 2004 Ross Barnett Reservoir, Ridgeland, MS. A 16 yr old boy was swimming in the

marina when he approached a houseboat. He screamed as if in pain and

disappeared under the water. He could not be revived after divers recovered his

body. A friend in the water also felt a shocking sensation. The cause was a home

made shore cord, hard wired to the panel which was passed through a hole in sheet

metal siding with no chafe protection. The insulation was cut by boat motion and

shorted the hot conductor to the siding. The siding was not adequately grounded

to the shore grounding system but was connected to the boat’s bonding system,

which caused the hull to go up in potential killing the boy.


39. Aug 8, 2004 Lake Travis, Austin, TX. Young man, in good health, swimming, in evening,

unobserved, between two sections of marina dock – disappeared. Came to surface

two days later. No toxic substance found on post mortem, but Joule marks

(electrical contact points) found on right wrist and left leg and shin. Suspected

electric shock drowning. Accident under investigation. (See follow-up, last page)


40. June 19, 2004 Lake Waccamaw, NC Ten year old boy drowned while swimming with friends

near a private dock boat lift that had just been raised from the water. An adult

reported a heavy shock when touching the lift and several children in the water

reported being shocked. Victim was noticed motionless face down nearby – could

not be revived. Lift frame had become energized and the bonding conductor from

the supply panel was not connected.


41. June 5, 2004 Lake Wylie, Charlotte, NC. Two young boys swimming at bow of houseboat

called for help. Father of victim and friend rushed forward – boy on ladder said he

was being shocked, other boy in water not moving. Friend rushed aft to pull shore

cord as father went onto water – his son could not be resuscitated. May not be

exact sequence. Causes of energized hull were substantial errors in wiring on the

dock as well as on the boat, apparently done by non qualified individuals.


42. Aug 3, 2003 Bull Shoals Lake, Bull Shoals, AR. Diver found Aug. 5 in shallow water 8 ft. from

his dock, drowned. Incorrectly wired dock junction box caused 117 VAC to appear

on metal dock components. Rescue diver reported feeling shock sensation 20 ft.

from dock!


43. June, 2003 Allatoona Lake, GA. Six wildlife fatalities (ducks!!) Houseboat pulled away from

the dock and still connected shore power cord separated in middle and fell into

water. Six dead ducks found floating nearby.


44. May, 2003 Cape Coral, Florida. Double drowning, section of re-bar driven through power

cable to back yard boat lift caused line potential to appear on lift frame, salt water.

Ventricular fibrillation likely cause of death – not confirmed.


45. May 31, 2002 Lake Cumberland, Monticello, KY. Double drowning (mother and daughter),

fault on houseboat, fresh water. 125V plug at boat end of shore cord rewired by

owner for 220V – L2 connected to “GR” pin - ground lead in 4 wire cord cut and

taped off! Hull rose to line potential.


46. March, 2002 Bay Marina Boat Works, Biloxi, MS. Some electrical work had recently been

done at this yard, which resulted in reverse polarity connections at the shore cord

receptacles for the stored boats. Over a short time period several boat owners

reported being shocked as they worked on their boats, and one owner was

electrocuted. The possibly of a missing ground combined with a ground- neutral

connection on the lethal boat was not investigated.


47. Sept.15, 2001 Farr Shores, Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs, AR. Girl receiving electric shock after

water-sliding into water at stern. Man attempting rescue drowns. Reverse

polarity, neutral to ground fault in a light fixture on the boat, and poor bonding to

the service caused the accident, fresh water. Boat unplugged in time to save girl.


48. June 6, 2001 Residence, Timber Ridge Dr., Dumfries, VA, Lake Montclair. Two young boys

entered water near pontoon boat. Battery chargers (2) connected to modified

extension cord from house. Electric shock drowning – cause of energized hull not



49. May, 2001 New Orleans, Electrocution – Boy using conveyor to transfer shrimp – no ground,

salt water.


50. Apr 10, 2001 Norris Lake, Lafollette, TN. Two teenage boys swimming behind house boat. One

boy climbed onto swim platform complaining of feeling severe shock – other boy

fell back from ladder– his head not below water (ventricular fibrillation?). Could

not be resuscitated. Damaged power cable to boat, black lead energized hull,

ground wire burned in two – breaker did not trip due to incorrect connection (may

not be exact sequence).


51. 2000 or 2001 Put-in-Bay, Ohio, Grand Banks 42. Owner’s prescription sunglasses went

overboard. Young bystander disappeared while trying to retrieve glasses, electric

shock drowning.


52. Sept.30, 2000 Tims Ford Lake, Winchester, TN. Two boys (21&22). Electric shock drowning.

Rescue diver felt electric shock Live wire in water near dock.


53. Aug 1, 1999 Multnomah Channel, Portland, OR. 8yr old boy tubing with friends in freshwater

marina along slow moving river. Boy decides to swim to dock (was wearing type

3 life vest). Suddenly he rolled over on back near the stern of a boat. Mother

enters water and helps get boy on dock (she felt tingle in water). Diagnosed as

electrocution (head was above water almost all the time). Cause was AC to DC

short on boat and no connection between AC ground and DC ground. 84vac

measured behind stern upon subsequent investigation.


54. July, 1999 Lake Mohave, AZ. Young man swimming toward stern of a house boat became

disabled and drowned, fresh water. Boat had a neutral-ground bond. Home made

shore cord “Y” became partly disconnected causing hull to become energized.

17vac measured behind stern-drive.


55. July18, 1999 Cedar hill Lake, Smithville, TN. Two young boys, with flotation devices, were

discovered in water, face down, a few feet behind a houseboat. 7 year old could

not be revived. 8 year old recovered. Electric shock drowning suspected.


56. July, 1999 S. Carolina, single drowning – 3 feet of water, woman in great distress, husband

attempts rescue and drowns, fresh water.


57. Approx. 1999 Rio Vista, CA. Several boys reported a tingle while swimming in this fresh water

marina and got out of the water. A short time later two other boys, 8 – 10 years

old, drowned at the same spot. Forty-year-old power wiring running under

moored boats found to have substantial fault to ground because of insulation



58. Sept., 1998 Lake Sonoma, CA. Single drowning, young girl in great distress, fault on dock,

fresh water.


59. Approx. 1998 AF Base, Washington, DC, boy walking on ice slipped and grabbed exposed wires

on dock that were supposed to have been de-energized, electrocuted.


60. July, 1997 Lake Mead, NV. Single drowning, fault on houseboat, freshwater.


61. Feb. 1995 Bolling AFB, Washington, DC. Young boy reaches from water and grabs support

structure for electrical junction boxes receiving lethal shock. Bare energized wires

found touching metal case inside junction box. Grounding wire had been cut and

never reattached to the junction boxes.


62. Approx. 1994 Texas, single drowning, fault on boatlift, salt water. Cause of death not available.


63. Sept., 1993 Oklahoma, single drowning, fault in submersible pump, fresh water.


64. August 1993 Alexandria Bay, NY. Double drowning. Two teenage girls snorkeling near dock

were paralyzed by electric shock and drowned. Fault was in dock wiring knawed

by rodents. Two bystanders entered the water to lend assistance, but were shocked

by the voltage in the water (they were treated at hospital and released).


65. July, 1993 Oklahoma, single drowning, fault in dock lights – energized dock frame, fresh



66. May 11,1991 Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs, AR. A canoe carrying four young

boys tipped over a few dozen yards from a dock. As they swam toward the dock

they felt a light tingle. Three of the boys diverted away from the dock while the

fourth boy continued into the electric field and drowned. Cause was broken

insulation on a dock wire hanging in the water.


67. July, 1991 Oklahoma, single drowning, fault in dock wiring, fresh water.


68. Dec., 1989 Oklahoma, single drowning, fault in submersible pump, fresh water


69. April 23,1988 New York State University at Albany. Sophomore waded into a pond on campus

and was electrocuted. Several others injured in rescue attempt. Cause was broken

electrical cable under the ground.


70. July, 1988 Park Township, MI, Lake Macatawa, Bay Haven Marina. 18-year-old boy falls off

dock, in great distress, two attempts to assist thwarted because of severe electric

shock as rescuers entered water.


71. 1987 or 1988 A) Gross Pointe Yacht Club, single drowning, diver, fresh water

B) Petosky, MI, single drowning, diver, fresh water. NOTE: Both incidents

relayed 3rd hand.


72. July 29, 1986 Harrods Creek, Lexington, KY – Ohio River. About 2030 two dogs jump into

water from owners 20 ft. runabout, and were observed to be in great distress.

Owner’s wife jumps in to help and was immediately in trouble. Husband goes in to

save his wife – both drown. Rescuers felt strong electric shock and could not

approach victims, but were able to rescue dogs later. Faulty light switch and

missing ground on nearby houseboat determined to be the cause.


73. June 8,1986 St Croix River, Prescott, Wisconsin. 44 year old swimmer dove off of the dock

near his 28’ power boat. As he approached the swim platform he said he felt like

he was being shocked, and was becoming numb, and then disappeared below the

surface. Recovery and attempted resuscitation in a matter of minutes were

unsuccessful. Battery charger had faulted to its metal chassis, and the boat’s mfgr.

had deliberately not installed the AC grounding wire to the boats bonding system

– as required – causing AC potential to appear on the underwater metal gear.


74. Date


Community swimming pool in Oklahoma, 10 year old electrocuted while inserting

coins in a soda vending machine. Power cord damaged by one of the 4 legs,

grounding pin on plug missing, machine chassis later measured at nearly line

voltage, NO GFCI.



Safety Suggestions by Beth A. Leonard from  Boat US  Seaworthy dated July 2013.

In general ESD victims are good candidates for successful Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Learn to perform CPR and maintain your training.  To retrieve a person in the water, reach, throw, and row, but don’t go. Tell others about ESD. Most people have never heard of it and are unaware of the danger. Make sure your children understand the importance of not swimming anywhere there could be electricity. Don’t let them roughhouse on docks. Tell them what to do if they feel a tingling or shock in the water (see below). NEVER swim within 100 yards of any freshwater marina or boatyard. Talk to marina owners or operators about the danger of ESD. Ask your marina operator to prohibit swimming at their facility and post signs. Ask marina operators if they are aware of and following the guidelines from NFPA 303 (Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards) and National Electric Code (NEC) 555.  Have your boat tested once a year to see if it is leaking electricity, or buy a clamp meter and test it yourself. If you find any problems, have your boat inspected by a qualified electrician trained to ABYC standards.  Have a qualified ABYC electrician install an ELCI on your boat (refer them to the ABYC E-11 Standard) or use an ELCI in the shore power cord. As an alternative, install an isolation transformer on the boat.   Test the GFCI/ELCI at least once a month or per the manufacturer’s specifications. DO NOT do your own 120-volt AC electrical work on a boat or hire an electrician who is not familiar with ABYC standards to do it. Many of the problems that lead to electrical faults result from the differences between shore and boat electrical systems and standards. DO NOT use common household extension cords for providing shore power to your boat. Use, and encourage other boaters to use, shore power cords built to UL standards.  NEVER dive on your boat to work on underwater fittings when it is plugged in to shore power, even in saltwater. NEVER swim within 100 yards of ANY dock using electrical power!  If you have not electrified your dock or put an AC system on your boat, weigh the risks carefully before doing so. If you need electricity on your dock, hire a licensed electrician and make sure the wiring meets the requirements in NFPA 303 and NEC 555. If your dock is already wired, hire an electrician to check that it was done properly. Because docks are exposed to the elements, their electrical systems should be inspected at least once a year.  Exercise your GFCIs/ELCIs as recommended by the manufacturer.  If you normally run a power cord from your house or garage to charge your batteries, make sure the outlet has a GFCI and include an ELCI somewhere in the shore power cord.  NEVER swim off your dock without shutting down all shore power to the boat and the dock. Even if you adhere to all of these rules, nearby docks can still present a shock hazard. Educate your neighbors and work together with them to make the waterfront safe. If you are in the water and feel tingling or shocks DO NOT follow your instinct to swim toward the dock!  SHOUT! Drowning victims cannot speak, let alone shout. Let everyone know what’s happening so they’ll understand the danger and react appropriately. Try to stay upright and back out of the area the way you came, warn any other swimmers in the area of the danger, and then head for shore 100 yards or more from the dock.  Alert the dock or marina owner and tell them to shut the power off to the dock until they locate the problem and correct it. Go to the hospital to make sure there are no lingering effects that could be dangerous  Know how to distinguish drowning from ESD (see Alert for how to recognize “normal” drowning; tingling, numbness, or pain all indicate ESD). Fight the instinct to enter the water  — many rescuers have died trying to help ESD victims. Call for help. Use 911 or VHF Channel 16 as appropriate. Turn off the shore power connection at the meter base and/or unplug shore power cords.  Get the victim out of the water. Remember to reach, throw, row, but don’t go.  If the person is not breathing or you cannot get a pulse, perform CPR until the Fire  Department, Coast Guard, or ambulance arrives. (The full article is linked 4th spot down to the right)

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