Arlington, VA –
Not only is Memorial Day a cherished holiday across the country, it also signifies the start of the summer boating season. However, when safety is not made a priority there can be serious consequences. In 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard counted 4,062 accidents that involved 560 deaths and 2,620 injuries as a result of recreational boating accidents.
One potential hazard not often discussed is Electric Shock Drowning (ESD). This occurs when electrical current leaks from boats or marina equipment into the water. This low level alternating current passes through the body of a nearby swimmer with sufficient force to cause skeletal muscular paralysis, causing the victim to drown. According to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, ESD occurs in fresh water and the majority of ESD deaths have occurred near public and private marinas and docks.
This past April, ESD claimed the life of 15-year-old Carmen Johnson, who died at her family’s vacation home at Smith Lake in Alabama after jumping off a dock into electrified water due to a faulty light switch. She was electrocuted by touching a metal ladder her father lowered into the water after she appeared to be in distress. In June of 2015, Marcus Colburn, 21, was an ESD victim at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri as a result of a faulty junction box.
ESFI is reminding boat operators and swimmers to be especially careful this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the season. “Electric Shock Drowning incidents continue to occur,” said ESFI President Brett Brenner. “Swimmers need to obey all signage, especially those prohibiting swimming in certain areas. Boat operators and marina owners should also take preventative measures, such as regular safety inspections and proper maintenance, to ensure their electrical equipment operates safely.”
To reduce the risk of Electric Shock Drowning and other common boat-related electrical hazards ESFI recommends the following:
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of the electrical hazards around us at home, work, school, and play. ESFI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.esfi.org.