Beware of Electric Shock Drowning


In July of 2019, a 10-year-old girl named McKenzie died while swimming in her family’s backyard pool, according to McKenzie lived in Citrus, Heights, California and she was killed while she was engaging in a popular summer activity – swimming.

McKenzie didn’t die because she got her hair caught in the pool drain or because another child held her head down in the water too long or because she hit her head while diving. Instead, she died of electrocution.

An electric shock drowning occurs when an electrical current, such as a low-level AC current from a light, boat, or dock escapes and shocks someone who is swimming nearby. The shock ends up paralyzing the swimmer so they’re not able to swim or seek help.

Low-Voltage Electrocution & Submersion

When the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District responded to the scene at McKenzie’s house, CPR was being performed on McKenzie. Her official cause of death was “low-voltage electrocution associated with water submersion,” said Kimberly Gin, the Sacramento County Coroner.

According to David Rifkin, the co-founder of the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, since 1986, there had been at least 98 reports of drownings caused by electric shock, but many more people survive or sustained injuries because of it. “We have about five or six times the number of near-miss deaths,” said Rifkin.

He also said that it’s difficult to compile statistics since many incidents are never reported. However, of those 98 reports, some of them involved multiple people. It’s important to note that while McKenzie died in a pool, most electric shock drownings occur in freshwater because it conducts electricity so well.

However, saltwater can pose risks as well. In many cases, what happens is electricity escapes from faulty wiring or equipment and the person swimming in the water becomes a part of the electrical path.

Electric shock drownings occur in swimming pools, marinas, whirlpool baths, and it can come from boats that are near marinas. The electrical current can cause tingling and the swimmer can lose control of their muscles. The current can also cause a fatal heart rhythm.

To avoid an electric shock drowning, take this advice:

  • Do not swim near a marina. Instead, swim at least 50 yards away, which is about half of a football field.
  • If you see someone in the water who appears to be shocked, don’t jump in to save them because you’ll probably be shocked too. Instead, call for help and throw the person a life preserver and tell others to get away. Turn off the power if possible.
  • If you have a home swimming pool or whirlpool bath, have it inspected each year by a certified electrician.
  • If you’re ever swimming and you feel a tingling sensation, swim away from anything that could be energized.

If you have a swimming pool or Jacuzzi and you’re concerned about faulty wiring leading to an electric shock drowning, contact Lightning Bug Electric for a safety inspection!

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