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What every parent needs to know about electric shock drowning

Published: Friday, April 22, 2016 @ 11:39 AM
Updated: Friday, April 22, 2016 @ 12:38 PM

Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning Explained
Sean Gallup

Two Alabama teens jumped from a boat dock into a fresh water lake to take a swim after a day of picnicking and enjoying the warming spring weather. But sadly, one of them never made it home.


The body of one of the girls, Carmen Johnson, 15, of Hartselle, didn’t resurface. Her body was recovered an hour later, having drowned in the fresh waters of Smith Lake in Winston County, Ala.


While authorities have not said for sure what caused Carmen’s death, they believe the Priceville High School cheerleader may have drowned after she was electrocuted by  a 120-volt alternating current that was “leaking” into the water.


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Carman’s death last week highlights a little-known but growing danger that comes with swimming near docks and the boats secured to them. And it sounds like every parent's nightmare.


The incidents of  Electric Shock Drowning – or drowning that happens as a result of an electric shock – have been on the rise as boats and docks are being stocked with more electric appliances and devices. If not properly installed or maintained, the devices can “leak” electric current into the water, setting up the potential for tragedy.


As the weather gets warmer and more people head outdoors for a fun time on the water, here’s a primer on ESD and some steps to take to keep safe this summer.


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What is an Electric Shock Drowning (ESD)?


ESD happens when a swimmer comes into contact with electrical current.  The current – in this case, alternating current (AC) – causes skeletal muscular paralysis, lasting for only an instant, but long enough to incapacitate a swimmer allowing him to drown. 


Where does the electricity come from?


The electric current “leaks” from boats and docks into the water. It can come from frayed wires, improperly wired systems or an AC grounding system that is damaged or malfunctioning.


What causes people to be electrocuted?


Electrical current will always attempt to return to its source in order to complete the elecrical circuit. Electrical current is resourceful and will find any way to do that, taking the path of least resistance and most conductivity (anything that will help the current move along its path). The way alternating current (AC) searches for its source is the most deadly for humans because it takes only a small amount of AC to disrupt the electrical impulses that control our muscles and nerves.  


Why does ESD happen in fresh water and not salt water?


We go back to conductivity for the answer. Fresh water is not a good electrical conductor. Because it is not a good conductor, the alternating current looks for something better. A human body in fresh water becomes that something better. The high amount of salt in humans make our bodies far better conductors of electrical current than fresh water.


How much electricity is needed for this to happen?


Not much at all. It takes only small amounts of leaking AC to incapacitate or electrocute a person. As small an amount as 15 milliamps can cause paralysis, 100 milliamps – or a third of the amount of electricity need to light a 40-watt light bulb – can kill a person in seconds. In comparison, a double AA battery produces 2400 milliamps per hour.


Doesn’t anyone regulate docks and boats secured to them?


There are marine codes that regulate docks and boats. They are NFPA 303 (Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards), NFPA 70, and National Electric Code 555 (NEC). also notes that “boats not wired in accordance with standards set forth by the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) can be a source of AC leakage.”


Can you tell if water is unsafe to swim in?


No, but here are some tips that could keep you safe. 

  • Never swim within 100 yards of any fresh water marina or boatyard.
  •  If you have a boat, have it tested to make sure it is not leaking electricity. You can buy a clamp meter and test it yourself.
  • Have a qualifed electrician do any electric work needed on a dock or on your boat. 
  • Do not use a household extension cords for powering your docked boat.  

If you feel "tingly" in the water, you could be at risk for shock. In that case you should: (courtesy of

  • Have someone turn off the shore power connection at the meter base and/or unplug shore power cords. 
  • Tell anyone in the water to move away from the dock.
  • Stop anyone else from entering the water.
  • If you believe someone has been shocked, reach, throw, row, but don’t go into the water to get to anyone who you think  has been shocked.
  •  Call for help. Use 911 or VHF Channel 16. 
  • Try CPR on the person; don't stop until trained help arrives.
Sources:;; Boating Magazine; Decatur Daily News

Father and son graduate together, plan to continue their educations together this fall

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 8:30 AM

File photo
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

A father and son plan to continue their educations after walking across the stage together to claim their degrees.

Earlier this month, thousands of graduates and their families packed into the BB&T Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for Broward College’s graduation.

RELATED: Proud son praises parents who beat crack addiction, graduated college 

Among the sea of graduates was father and son Francis and Samson Fagunleka. The family moved to the United States from Nigeria six years ago.

Francis said education has always been a high priority for him and his children.

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“I don’t want my children to be in the streets,” Francis told WSVN. “I want them to emulate successful people, and the only way for you to get there is through education.”

The two enrolled at the same time and both plan to continue on to Nova Southeastern University in the fall.

When she first ‘liked’ his Instagram photo, he had no idea she would soon become his wife

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 9:48 AM

File photo
Carl Court/Getty Images

Scott and Laura Ulrich’s love story is beautiful, but a little unusual. Their journey started with a simple “like” on Instagram, and now the happy couple is married and enjoying life together in Atlanta.

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This coffee-brewing, city-living, cat-loving couple proves that anything can happen if you meet the right person, and you’re willing to be a little bold. According to Laura:

Scott and I went to the same college, Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. I knew who he was, but he didn’t even know I existed. I remember when I saw him for the first time, he had the most beautiful eyes that I had ever seen. We spoke for maybe two minutes, then he walked away.

RELATED: Not all superheroes wear capes

In that moment, Scott had no idea that he was speaking to his future wife for the first time, but Laura knew he was special from that very first moment:

I joked with my friends that I was going to marry Scotty Ulrich… well, I was sort of joking.

A year went by, and their brief conversation turned into nothing more than that. They both transferred to Georgia State University around the same time, and that’s when things started to get interesting. Laura explained that timing and location was all they needed to get the ball rolling.

It has been a little over a year since I had thought about Scott, but then randomly one day while I was in the car with a friend, Scott’s name popped into my head and I just had to see what he was up to. I quickly realized that he was also living in Atlanta. I followed him on Instagram, and shortly after we started liking each others pictures. Then I did something bold and a little out of character for me; I sent him a message telling him that we should be friends.

Scott may not have known who Laura was before, but she definitely caught his attention with that message.

I knew I wanted to take this pretty girl on a date, but I had just gotten into a car wreck and my car was totaled. I ended up buying her a train ticket, and asked her if she wanted to grab coffee with me. We were pretty much inseparable after she entered the station. It was a date that we never wanted to end.

Laura looks back on the day that she decided to check up on Scott via Instagram, and stresses to others that sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone to get some of the most special things in life.

Piece of advice: don’t ask your friends to set you up with someone. There’s is no one better to set you up with someone then [sic] yourself. If you never try, you never know. And you are probably much more incredible then you think you are. So I think people should go for it. You have nothing to lose. Be bold.

HS athlete with epilepsy fighting to bring cannabis oil on campus

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 9:30 AM

A high school athlete is at the center of a cannabis oil debate. He is one of 1,700 patients to sign up throughout the state for medical marijuana, but his high school says he can't bring it on campus.

WSBTV’s Rikki Klaus spoke with CJ Harris, who is currently traveling with the Warner Robins High School basketball team.

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He played at Lambert High in Suwannee over the weekend. His family credits medical cannabis oil for keeping CJ seizure-free the last several months.

"It's hard because you don't know if this is your last breath your child is taking. You just don't know," father Curtis Harris told Klaus. 

Harris said he couldn't be more proud of his 17-year-old son, CJ.

Klaus looked on as the Warner Robins High School basketball player hit the court in Gwinnett County over the weekend. But epilepsy kept stealing CJ's thunder, and his prescription pills weren't working.

"I wake up every morning and I pray, ‘Please don't let nothing happen today. Please don't let nothing happen today,’" CJ told Klaus.

Harris said his son has had about 15 seizures, and hit his head half a dozen times.

CJ’s last seizure was in early January.

In mid-January, CJ started taking medical cannabis oil, legal in the state of Georgia for two years now.

Harris said it's worked, so far.

"He's going from having two seizures a month or one seizure a month, and now he hasn't had any? That's like, wow," Harris said.

But CJ has had to miss class, just so he can take his noon dose. 

The medicine is forbidden on his campus. It violates federal law. For Harris and his son, it's a huge inconvenience.

"So I've got to come pick him up every day, check him out of school, bring him to the house," Harris said.

Klaus contacted the Houston County Board of Education, which sent her a statement that reads, in part:

"Per the Safe and Drug Free Schools federal law, the oil may not be brought onto school grounds."

State Rep. Allen Peake, who is responsible for advocating for and ushering in Georgia's medical marijuana program, said cases like this are going to become more and more common, since state law conflicts with federal law.

"CJ's case is not going to be isolated. There are kids all over the state who are going to be facing the same issue, particularly now that autism is added to the list of qualifying conditions," Peake told Klaus.

Harris said the medicine was allowed at his son's old school, a private school in Macon. He wants that same freedom for CJ at Warner Robins.

Peake said school administrators need to get courageous, do what's best for the students and allow cannabis oil on campus. 

Police find 2 overdosing adults, child in car nearly crashed over hillside

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 9:21 AM

A car with a young child in the back seat nearly flipped over a hillside Monday in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood as the driver and another adult were overdosing, police said.

The car was still running and in drive when police found it crashed off Cloverdale Street shortly after 5:30 p.m. Police said it looked like it was going to tip at any moment and the child was screaming for help.

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According to a criminal complaint, a man and a woman were overdosing on heroin and were slumped over in the front of the car. Officers administered Naloxone to both people, one of whom was turning blue.

Police found that there were “stamp bags littered on the front center cup holder and the front passenger floor,” the complaint said. Hypodermic needles were also in the front of the car.

Both adults and the child were safely pulled from the car.