Tragedy struck last month as 15-year-old Carmen Johnson, an athletic
on the varsity cheerleading team at her high school, suddenly drowned after
lowering a ladder into the lake near her vacation home in Alabama.
While these cases are rare, they're on the rise as more and
more technology is brought closer to the water. When small amounts of
electricity start leaking into the water, they can shock and paralyze their
victims long enough to drown.
Often, these currants are delivered by the metal stairs leading
into the water, but electricity can also leak directly into the water,
disabling people as they swim by. The electricity can leak from a nearby pool,
boat or a dock, and experts on the topic suspect that numbers will only
increase with the increase in technology used near water.
In Johnson’s case, the electric shock drowning was cause by an
electric current from a faulty light switch.
Her father told Today how he attempted to rescue his daughter,
and was also paralyzed and blacked out. After his son jumped in he briefly woke
long enough to yell "Cut the power to the boat dock!" saving their
lives, but it was too late for Carmen.
Kevin Ritz, who founded the Electric Shock Drowning Association
after his 8-year old son was killed grabbing the metal ladder on a boat in 1999,
says these cases are hard to identify, as the electrocution can't be
identified during the autopsy. He urges parents to be vigilant, as this can
happen anywhere there is water and electricity, even if the body of water is
His tips for keeping your family safe are to use ground fault
protection devices on the power sources that switch the power off if there's a
problem with the electrical flow, or shutting off the electricity off when
people are swimming.
For more information on electric shock drowning, as well as printable
brochures you can share with others, families can visit Ritz’s website www.electricshockdrowning.org.