Sometimes when parents lose a child they’ll do anything within their power to make sure that other parents never have to go through the same thing.
That’s why Jimmy Johnson is doing what he can to warn the public about electric shock drowning.
His daughter, Carmen Johnson, was just 15-years-old when she drowned after being electrocuted while swimming near her family’s Alabama lake house.
It’s a rare phenomenon but it also took the lives of 34-year-old Shelly Darling and 41-year-old Elizabeth Whipple who died after swimming on Lake Tuscaloosa.
“I’ve been around water all my life and I never thought that electricity in a huge body of water like that could do what it did,” Johnson told CBS News. “It is something that even people like me now after all these years never had any idea that this even happened.”
Electric shock drowning occurs when an electric current hits a body of water.
Even a low-level electrical current can be fatal to those who are in the water.
Especially in freshwater which allows the voltage to “take a shortcut” through the human body.
“There is no visible warning or way to tell if water surrounding a boat, marina or dock is energized or within seconds will become energized with fatal levels of electricity,” the non-profit Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association says.
The only reason Johnson figured out the water had been electrified was that he got shocked when he jumped in to save his daughter.
“If I would have known this could happen or heard about it before — I am not sure if this would have happened to my daughter,” Johnson told TODAY.
Carmen had jumped off of the top level of the family’s boat and into Smith Lake with her friend Reagan Gargis.
That’s when Johnson put a ladder in so that the girls could climb out.
But then they heard Reagan scream.
“My wife thought [Carmen] had done something to her neck, which paralyzed her,” Johnson said. “She started going underwater.”
Johnson and his son Zach immediately jumped in the water.
Johnson began to go in and out of consciousness but was able to yell to his wife to cut the power.
“Carmen was grabbing [Reagan’s] leg and was getting the majority of the shock when I came over,” Johnson said.
Johnson later discovered that a light switch on the dock was filled with water and that when the ladder went into the water the light’s current electrified the water.
“As they were swimming toward the dock, within somewhere between the 5-to-10-foot range, is when they started feeling like they couldn’t swim,” Johnson recalled.
Since his daughter’s death, Johnson has been working to educate people about the dangers of electroshock drowning.
“It’s every homeowner’s responsibility to make sure water is safe around their dock before they start swimming,” Johnson said. “People think ‘Oh, this is a freak accident.
“It’s not going to happen to me.’ And here we are now — 3 dead in a year.”
He offers the following safety tips:
- Use a plastic or wooden ladder which won’t transfer electricity
- Swim away from the dock if you start to feel a tingle or shock.
- Always check the wiring around your dock, including the ground fault circuit breaker. Do this often
- Invest in a Dock Lifeguard. It’s a device that detects electricity on your dock and in the water around your dock
- Make sure there’s a ground fault breaker
- Make sure everyone present knows where the power cutoff is
“We don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve experienced,” Carmen’s mom, Casey Johnson told AL.com. “We could just not talk about it. But, we know Carmen would want us to talk about this and save another life.”
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Source: ABC News