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BoatUS Offers Tips To Prevent Near-Dock Swimming Fatalities

The recent electricity-related deaths of an 11-year-old girl in New Jersey and 19-year-old young man in Ohio are bringing scrutiny to popular longtime summer ritual in North America: swimming near boat docks. Preventing such tragedies is subject of a press release from the BoatUS Foundation.


Prevention is the cure for most electricity-related near-dock swimming tragedies according to the BoatUS Foundation. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

According to the release, the girl died reportedly died when touching a dock’s electrified boatlift and the young man died as a result of dangerous electrical current in the water. Although swimming deaths due to electricity fall into two categories, the release stated, electrocution and electric shock drowning (ESD), both can be prevented the same way.

The release stated, “Electrocution can happen in fresh- or saltwater when swimmers make contact with energized metal dock fittings, boats or other structures due to faulty alternating current (AC) wiring. ESD occurs when AC gets into freshwater from faulty wiring and passes through a swimmer, causing paralysis or even sudden death. Unlike electrocution, with ESD a swimmer does not need to be touching a boat or dock structure, and even minute amounts of electricity can be incapacitating and lead to drowning.”

Here are six tips from the BoatUS Foundation to prevent an electrocution or ESD fatality.

1. Never Swim around boat docks that use electricity.
2. Post “no swimming” signs.
3. Have a qualified electrician with experience in dock electrical service inspect your private dock annually.
4. Install ground-fault protection on your boat and private dock.
5. Ask your marina if they have installed ground-fault protection, and if the electrical system is inspected and tested annually-just in case someone falls overboard. No one should ever swim in a marina
6. Periodically test your boat for electrical leakage into the water.

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