Rep. Kevin Sinnette warns of potential for electric shock drownings near marina docks and house boats

06/16/2014 06:38 PM

Several Kentuckians have died this year in lakes after drowning from electric current leaking into fresh water from nearby boats or docks, an issue Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, wants to see addressed through legislation.

Sinnette has been warning about the phenomenon known as electric shock drowning for the past three legislative sessions — introducing legislation in each session to outlaw swimming 50 yards near marinas and install ground fault interrupters on boat dock outlets and boats.

Older house boats, Sinnette said, can be susceptible to leaking live alternating current into the water around the boat. Often times boat owners can trigger the electric leakage with a flick of a switch — turning on a light and electrifying the hull and the surrounding water.

“As an individual is being electrocuted what happens is they become paralyzed, and they are unable to move their arms — limbs and they eventually sink,” Sinnette said. “What’s happened over the past years is a lot of times they were just related to drownings — cramping, but it takes individuals to actually see what was actually going on.”

Sinnette said the cost of installing fault interrupters on boats range in price from $50 to $100, and would need to be installed by certified electricians, but he argues that you can’t put a cost on the life of a loved one.

“I guarantee you’ve got these individuals who have lost their husbands, their children — they would gladly pay tens of thousands of dollars to have them back,” he said.

Last session, Sinnette said the bill ran into opposition from marina owners. But he said he was able to work with the owners to craft a “very good bill” but time ran short in the budget session.

Sinnette said other lawmakers have also opposed the bill, because they he said they see the issue as one of government control. Sinnette said he will introduce the legislation again, and keep working to educate the public of the risks.


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