Dock electrocutions are a serious – if lesser-known – risk of drowning in Alabama. They can cause electric shock drowning, or a death that occurs when swimmers encounter electric currents while swimming. The electric shock itself may be strong enough to kill the swimmer, or it may incapacitate the swimmer enough to cause drowning. It is every dock owner’s responsibility to take steps to prevent dock electrocutions.
What Is Dock Electrocution?
Dock electrocutions can refer to the passing of often low-level AC electrical current through the body while swimming, due to a leak of electricity into the water from a nearby dock or marina. The current can strike with enough force to paralyze the victim, making it impossible to help him/herself and avoid drowning. It can also refer to high-level AC current that kills the swimmer on contact.
Dock electrocution is a serious risk in any body of water near a dock, pier, marina, boats, or anywhere there is a combination of water and electricity. Electrical malfunctions can affect swimmers who are not touching metal, by sending the currents through the water. However, some shocks occur when swimmers touch metal boat or dock ladders. It is the owner of the dock or boat’s responsibility to properly maintain the item’s electrical components to prevent electrocution.
Why Is Dock Electrocution So Dangerous?
The National Fire Protection Association calls electric shock drowning the silent killer. Many people do not recognize this danger, or have never heard of it until it happens to them or a loved one. Yet it happens all over the world, affecting hundreds of people every year. Children are commonly the victims of fatal dock electrocutions, but adults are not immune. Recently, two lawyers (ages 34 and 41) passed away on Lake Tuscaloosa, Alabama from electric shock drowning.
The two victims were swimming by a dock on Lake Tuscaloosa before drowning after what coroners suspect was dock electrocution. Another Alabama family lost their 15-year-old daughter to the same cause when she swam in a lake near the family dock. The dock was trickling electricity into the water, unbeknownst to the owners. By the time a family member shut off the power source, it was too late.
Dock electrocution is a silent killer for several reasons. First, it does not have any warning signs. There is no way – without a voltmeter or similar device – to tell whether the water surrounding a dock has levels of electric current. Second, most swimmers do not immediately notice the electric current upon entering the body of water. They may believe it is safe to swim, until they are fully submerged and a dock experiences a fatal electrical fault. Third, it can take the lives of healthy, strong swimmers by paralyzing their limbs and making it impossible to swim to safety.
Why Dock Electrocutions Happen
Dock electrocutions happen when there is an electric current leak that sends volts of electricity into a dock, boat, ladder, or body of water. Electricity leaks can occur when dock owners fail to properly inspect and maintain their properties. Many owners are not aware of the risk of dock electrocution, and neglect to schedule electric component inspections and repairs. Lack of proper maintenance and dock control can lead to electrocution hazards, including the following:
- Broken or faulty dock lights or power switches
- Damaged dock or boat wiring
- Unsafe marina or dock power supply
- Electric faults in the boat or dock
- Building or electrical code violations
- Lack of life-saving ground fault devices on power sources
Negligent dock and boat owners can cause fatal dock electrocutions and related electric shock drownings. Failure to properly maintain a dock and to hire professional electricians to inspect the electric components could result in owner liability if someone sustains an injury or dies because of the omission. If you or a loved one suffered dock electrocution in Alabama, contact an attorney immediately. You may have grounds for a lawsuit against the dock owner.