2011.08.17

Stray Voltage Deaths Swimming in Marinas

The issue of stray voltage deaths while swimming in fresh water marinas is now well-known.  Significant notoriety was generated by the stray voltage swimming death of the young Lucas Ritz near Portland, Oregon in 1999.   Lucas’ father, Kevin Ritz, has published a number of articles found on the internet concerning safety issues surrounding stray voltage while swimming in marinas.  Lucas’ death was traced to stray voltage from a power boat in a nearby marina.  Random inquiries have shown that a sampling at any time of boats in a marina with a simple voltage meter will demonstrate stray voltage coming from a significant number of those boats.  The stray voltage is from the 110  shore power while the boats are plugged in while tied up at the docks.  It has been suggested by many authors that a significant number of drowning deaths are actually electrocutions due to stray voltage because there is no good post-mortem evidence available to coroners to ascertain whether electricity was involved in a drowning. 
 
Mr. Ritz suggests that if the marina had installed a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breaker ahead of the boats shore power, or if the boat had been properly wired, his son’s drowning may not have occurred. 
 
Marinas should never permit swimming inside a marina  due to the significant stray voltage risk inside marinas and should post adequate signage and enforce them.   Marinas should install GFCI breakers on all electrical outlets and responsible boaters should periodically check their electrical systems for short circuits and frayed wiring which may cause stray voltage.  Deaths from stray voltage in marinas are preventable.

COMMENTS

much smarter than I about this topic--said we should never swim in the marina due to risk of electrical shock. We grabbed our towels and drudged down the way to the public beach. I am glad we did, now that I just read this tragic narrative of a death from electrical current leakage from a boat on shore power.

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