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Stray Voltage Deaths - Marinas

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2011.08.18

Mancelona Michigan Teen Victim of Stray Voltage Swimming in Marina

Michael Scott Knudson, 18, of Mancelona, Michigan died as a result of receiving an electric shock from stray voltage while swimming at the Duncan L. Clinch Marina in Traverse City, Michigan.

A preliminary investigation reports that the source of the stray voltage which caused the electric shock to Michael Knudson emanated from an electrical line carrying electrical power to a section of floating dock.  Evidently, the electrical line had a short circuit which for an unexplained reason did not trip the circuit breaker carrying power to the dock. 

Media reports suggest that Michael Knudson was swimming with at least one friend, who also experienced an electric shock from the stray voltage emanating from the dock at Duncan L. Clinch Marina.  A thorough investigation should reveal whether the teens were even aware that there was an apparent restriction against swimming in the marina, and whether the postings were adequate to afford the teens warning of the dangers of swimming in a marina.  Stray voltage in fresh water marinas are a well-known hazard in any boating community.  It will be worth knowing whether those overseeing the marina enforced the no swimming prohibition they claim was in effect at the time of this accident. 

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2011.08.17

Investigation confirms teen experienced electric shock before drowning

A preliminary investigation confirmed that a short in an electrical line carrying power to a section of floating dock caused an electric current to enter the water near where Michael S. Knudson drowned.  The report also concluded the short did not cause the circuit breaker to shut of power.

We assume there will be findings concerning why the circuit breaker failed, and what caused the short-circuit.  The other questions that must be asked and answered are whether there were adequate warnings notifying the public swimming was prohibited and if so, whether those restrictions were being enforced.

The risk of stray voltage in a freshwater marina setting is significant and the precautions necessary to prevent swimming in the marina should be examined thoroughly to prevent another such tragedy.

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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.

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Teen Swimming Death May Have Been Result of Electrical Shock from Stray Voltage

Traverse City – Michael Scott Knudsen, an 18-year-old Mancelona man, died Monday evening while swimming at the Clinch Park Marina near Dock F. 

According to witnesses, he may have received an electrical shock in the water before drowning. 

Two Traverse City Firefighters brought Michael Knudsen to the surface and administered CPR, but were unable to resuscitate him.  Mr. Knudsen was transported to Munson Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  

Michael Knudsen’s friend reported to authorities that he had felt an electrical shock in the water.  The Power to the dock was cut off by marina authorities. 

Traverse Legal, a law firm specializing in complex litigation and mass tort with Maritime experience, is investigating this accident.  If you have any questions or seek representation concerning this accident, contact a Traverse City personal injury lawyer.

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