Drowning due to a pump failure – Really?

Unfortunately, it does. A water pump failure in a Rayleigh, NC community swimming pool caused the drowning death of a teenager.  The pool water was electrified after a water pump failed and a corroded conductor carried electricity to the pool water instead of taking it to a circuit breaker. Sounds simple, but sadly a teenager paid the price.

This loss of a young life could have been prevented, only if there were stronger regulations around electrical maintenance and inspection. Should there have been an inspection, the corroded conductor would have been spotted before the tragic incident and not after the county sheriff’s office requested an investigation. 17-year-old Rachel Rosoff would still be alive and her family and friends would not be mourning her death now.

The swimming pool, where the tragic incident happened, was built in 1979 and passed the electric inspection then with no requirement for future electrical inspection. Wake County, where this pool is, does not require regular electric inspection unless a permit for major renovation is requested. This pool has been operating since 1979 (37 years) without an electric inspection after the initial one – something to seriously think about. Request for a permit or not, electric inspections should be mandated for the swimming pools, just like safety and emission inspections for the cars.

This incident should serve notice to: the legislators to enact stringent regulations; the swimming pool owners should voluntarily conform to the latest electric codes; swimming pool users should check with the pool owner or management about the currency of the electric maintenance and inspection of the pool.

Drowning due to electrocution is completely preventable. The number of drowning deaths due to electrocution in the swimming pools may be small, but that is still too many.

The report from the Wake County Inspection Administrator can be found here.

– Meghna Sil

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Preventing Drowning during Triathlons – are we doing enough?

Yesterday was a sad day for the sport of triathlon. Collin Campbell, a 27-year-old triathlete from Woodlands, Texas, died of an apparently drowning during the swimming event of Onalaska Half Distance Triathlon in Lake Livingston near Houston. According to witnesses, he had crossed half-way point of the 1.2 miles swim leg of the race before going under. He was a well-trained and strong swimmer with no prior health condition. What could have caused this drowning death? Does not look like age, ill preparation for the swim or prior health conditions.

Not long time ago, in April 2016, 25-year-old Taurean Blake drowned in Calcasieu River during a triathlon at Sam Houston Jones Park, Louisiana, and later died in the hospital. He had just started the swim and had hardly gone 75 to 100 yards.   What could have caused this drowning death? Does not look like age or fatigue.

A recently published research by the Duke University researchers indicated that majority of the case they studied were due to some cardiac abnormalities. Some of these abnormalities are not evident under normal circumstance, but may get accentuated by cold water. Should the organizers mandate actual stress test under similar conditions before allowing the triathlete to get into the race? Maybe the self-certification of health condition by the athletes is not working, and the athletes (more so the ones in extreme sports) have too much of ego and sense of invincibility to admit.

Another aspect that potentially can be overlooked is the panic attacks in open water. Too many swimmers with the arms and legs kicking and splashing water can create a very chaotic and claustrophobic environment. My conversations with multiple triathletes (some of them have even participated in Ironman races) make me believe panic attack is not very uncommon, some know how to manage it and some do not. Triathlon is a sport of physical endurance as well as a sport of mental endurance. Should the organizers mandate panic management classes before allowing the triathletes to get into the race? Again, how many swimmers were actually stuck by panic in a real race will be hard to determine since most of them may not admit.

With the triathlon season winding down for the year, it’s time for triathlon organizers and governing bodies to introspect, time to get the medical professionals and technical innovators involved to carve the drowning, and time to bring awareness. Statistically, 1.5 drowning deaths out of 100,000 participants in USA Triathlon sanctioned events may look insignificant. But, for a nation that is thinking of sending a man to another planet, that number is too many.

– Meghna Sil

Electric Shock Drowning – Completely Preventable!

Just this past Labor Day weekend, we lost a young life in Raleigh, North Carolina to Electric Shock Drowning (ESD). A teenage girl drowned after entering the electrified water. Prior to this incident, a 15 years old lost her life in Smith Lake, Alabama to a tragic ESD incident. The teenager’s father had lowered a metal ladder to the water to help her on board without realizing that the ladder was leaking electricity. A nightmare that no parent should live with.

Drowning due to electric shock is not much talked about or mentioned frequently in the news. Nevertheless, it is still a threat, particular, in the fresh water near docks or boats with electric connectivity. The ESD stats available may not be a true indication of the reality since many deaths are simply classified under ‘drowning’.

ESD happens when a human body makes contact with water that is ‘electrified’ due to a faulty electric connection, damaged live power cord, and faulty or no ground fault protection. Human body serves as a conductor and even a small fraction of electricity can paralyze the muscular system, impair breathing and eventually lead to drowning.  A ground fault protection mechanism is meant to help detect electricity leakage and turn the power off.

Every boat comes with an owner’s manual and every dock or marina owner is required to follow certain protocol to keep it safe. But at times, negligence and accidents do happen. What can we, as swimmers, do to protect ourselves? Again the common sense should prevail – DO NOT swim near the boats, marinas or docks, which have electric connections.  If you ever feel a jolt, swim away from the boat or the dock.

Even though statistics undermine the actual numbers, we need to pay attention since ESD is completely preventable. According to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, since the experts started tracking recently, there have been over 60 incidents of ESD, several near misses and likely hundreds of deaths have gone unreported; a random sampling of shore power cords in the several freshwater marinas in the US displayed 13% of the boats were leaking lethal amount of electric current into the water. Alarming statistics for something that is completely preventable!

– Meghna Sil