Electrical shocks at Docks

Discussion in 'Lake Powell Recreation' started by Michael Pyle, Mar 3, 2017.

  1. Michael Pyle

    Michael Pyle Member

    Saw this brought up in another thread so figure I would start a new thread on it.

    Both Wahweap and Antelope marinas are not allowing dock swimming due risk of shock.

    I have boated at Lake of the Ozarks and they have the same danger but everyone adds these to their dock to ensure the water is safe.


    Why can't we use this at our docks? seems like If I put one of these on my dock I should be able to swim in the water?

    Why not put these in the water at the kids play area at Antelope?

    Seem like telling people to stay out of the water does not actually solve the problem. What if there is electricity in the water and someone falls in? Must we always assume there is a danger and be so scared of falling in? seems silly when there are proven ways to know if there is any danger.

    what am I missing?

    Bill Sampson likes this.
  2. ScottF

    ScottF Active Member

    Hello Mike,

    I can understand your position. We have also enjoyed swimming off the back of the houseboat over the years, while at Bullfrog. And there are a lot of families at Antelope, where we now reside, that swim behind their houseboats. The marina should accommodate them if possible.

    However, I'm not sure it is possible to have safe swimming by children at a busy marina. Seems like the smaller problem is kids getting sucked into the props of the big boats maneuvering in the lane. In calm conditions this shouldn't be too much of a problem, but under high power in windy conditions it is my understanding that the big boats can suck in a swimmer from up to 50' away. The bigger problem, as you brought up, is electricity in the water. the Dock Lifeguard would warn you if there is already electricity in the water within 40' of its location, but if electricity is suddenly introduced into the water while the kids are swimming...

    Personally, I'd be inclined to let families swim if they want, after signing a waiver acknowledging the dangers. But the marina would need a legal opinion, and approval from their insurance company, before this could be done.

    I wonder if we could have a few safe swimming areas around the Marina. It wouldn't be nearly as nice as behind one's own houseboat, with slide, jumping, lily pad, etc., but might be an alternative.
    Bill Sampson likes this.
  3. Michael Pyle

    Michael Pyle Member


    Good points about the safety around boats. I often worry about people that are out behind boats getting ran over by someone backing up without seeing them. To my knowledge that has never happened at any of the Lake Powell Marinas.

    For us we like to jump in the empty slip next to our boat to cool off, I think that is plenty safe.

    Antelope has the swim dock by the store that is protected. its a platform under the water. They closed that down because for Electrical danger.

    You are also right that the sensors only tell you if there is current in the water at that time and it could happen while you are in the water but thats way less likely. Most if not all of these electrical issues are created when the boat is being worked on, not every day operations.

    The only issue I have is that the risk is relatively low. I have been going to Powell since the late 90's and I can only recall the one death from electrical shock. Not to minimize that death but in the big picture thats a really small percentage compared to the swimmers around the docks during those years. I am sure more people have died from other activities around the lake. You can't just shut everything down and live in a bubble of safety. In fact I bet the risk of death is higher due to heat exhaustion because they could not get in the water at the docks.

    Bill Sampson likes this.
  4. ScottF

    ScottF Active Member

    Mike, swimming in the empty slip next to your boat is probably the safest thing you could do at Lake Powell - no CO2, no prop danger, no jumping onto submerged rocks... I hope you'll be able to continue.

    It looks like you also have a cruiser style boat. We are at LP most weekends from May-Sept. Please introduce yourself if you see a white and tan cruiser, Lady Miriam, and I'll watch for your boat also.
    Bill Sampson likes this.
  5. John P Funk

    John P Funk Well-Known Member

    I agree with Mike, there were two deaths on Lake Powell last year alone(that I read about) from drowning when children weren't wearing their PFD's while on a houseboat. These incidents happened because the law was ignored, and should have never happened(what more could be done?). I think the danger from passing boats is minimal, as is the threat from electrocution(I do like the warning system in proximity to the docks), but in our litigious society, there is always the fear of liability in case something does happen. In the wake of tragedy, it seems we want to look for someone to blame, and I suppose that's natural. I just hate to see the fun end for everyone, because of an unfortunate event that could be prevented. You simply can't legislate common sense into people, lately it seems that you can't even find common sense in most people.
    Bill Sampson likes this.
  6. Ryan

    Ryan Well-Known Member

    To me, that last paragraph is the one that hits home. Risk is INCREDIBLY low. Don't look just at Powell, do a search for lake electrical shock deaths, and very few come up. When I looked last year when the subject came up I seem to remember seeing less than 1 death per year in the US.

    Not only would I guess that you are much more likely to die another way at the Lake, I would also be willing to bet that your chances of dying in an auto accident on the way to the lake is higher as well.

    Which is a long winded way of saying, I am willing to assume the risk.

    The last two years it was almost comical to see them give out warnings. The ranger boat would come by, people would get out of the water (some after being spoken with by the ranger), and as soon as it left the row of slips, everyone back in the water. Maybe that will change when they write tickets.

    Bad part is, that is a very easy place for the rangers to patrol. And this will likely have them spending more time there instead of out enforcing other problems at the lake.

    Just my opinion.
  7. Michael Pyle

    Michael Pyle Member

    Scott, I have seen your boat, its super nice. I will for sure introduce myself if I see you, and you do the same. We are on D dock on the Pyle Aboard.

    Ryan, Good points. You are right about people swimming then just getting out when Rangers come, which is a great lesson for the kids. I honestly try really hard to show my respect for rules in front of my kids, but its getting harder to do. And the Rangers for sure could be better utilized out in the lake.

    Its just so sad to see the swimming area and wakeboard park at Antelope closed. that place was so fun back when it was open. We would make a special trip out there to watch the wake-boarders and cool off in the pool.

    I feel bad for this generation, my kids have no idea what it was like back when you could actually do stuff. Now everything is regulated. We used to spend a lot of time in Lake Havasu back in the day, it was crazy the stuff we could do, LOL

    I wonder what my kids will be telling their kids about the old days. I just can't imagine things getting even more regulated.

    Bill Sampson and Ryan like this.
  8. Waterbaby

    Waterbaby Administrator Staff Member


    Lake Powell Electric Shock Drowning Death Lawsuit
    July 14
    12:35 2015
    by Josh Alexander

    Alec McQueen

    According to a federal lawsuit, a man who died at Lake Powell last year jumped into water that was charged with electricity due to a boat that was plugged into a wrong size power outlet.

    Alec McQueen, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was with two friends when they pulled into an empty slip at the Bullfrog Marina. After the boat docked and the engine was off, McQueen jumped into the lake for a swim. The friends he was with saw him go under the water and received electrical shocks when they reached into the water to try and grab him.

    Two emergency personnel workers, who responded to the scene, were also shocked when they touched the water. Recovery efforts were not successful until McQueen’s body was found 113 feet below the surface, two days after the incident.

    An investigation found that a boat owner, parked in the adjacent slip, had inserted a 30 amp cord into a 50 amp outlet, causing electricity to discharge into the water around it. According to the suit, the outlet’s instructions and warnings were covered in dirt and grime and were unreadable.

    The boat’s owner along with Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services are named in the lawsuit by McQueen’s parents, who say both parties were negligent in allowing the water to become electrified, which caused their son’s death. The family is seeking unspecified damages.

    On February 5th, 2015 an article by Mark Suttie, the Safety and Occupational Health Manager for Glenn Canyon Recreational Area and Rainbow Bridge National Monument, detailed the causes, signs and risks of electric shock drowning or ESD. If you would like to learn more about ESD, the article is available on the National Park Services website at: www.nps.gov/glca/planyourvisit/upload/Electric-Shock-Drownings.pdf.

    Swimming is prohibited in all of Lake Powell’s marinas.
    Bill Sampson likes this.
  9. Ryan

    Ryan Well-Known Member

    Tragic story, no doubt. Is the the only death at Powell, or were there more? I seem to remember only one other.

    How many people die cliff jumping? Or VERY young kids drowning due to not wearing PFDs? Or alcohol involved boating activities/driving? Certainly more than the electric shock issue. A more active Ranger presence on the lake could focus on all those issues. Or they can spend their time enforcing no swimming in the Marinas. Which would you rather have, because you can't have both?

    When someone asks "even if it only saves one life, isn't it worth it?", my answer is NO. But not everyone agrees with me.
    Bill Sampson likes this.
  10. BartsPlace

    BartsPlace Moderator Staff Member

    This is a tough issue for me. Like many, there have been times when we've stayed in the slip for our entire trip - either because we planned it that way, or due to an unforeseen problem with the runabout or houseboat. Swimming off of the back of the houseboat was the main attraction on those trips.

    I totally get the dangers involved. And I think that measures should be taken to avoid the types of accidents that have happened in the past. There are improvements that can be made in/around the docks. There should be a shared responsibility/liability between boat owners and Aramark.

    To me, the "just stop all swimming" plan is a cop-out. If swimming is completely forbidden, I think it lessens the urgency for Aramark to identify and resolve electrical safety issues. That's not a positive outcome. Plus, there are some of us who regularly enter the water to inspect/maintain the propellers and outdrives of our boats. I assume that will be forbidden as well. There has to be an acceptable middle ground, doesn't there?
    Bill Sampson, Ryan and capt.catfish like this.
  11. WaterMan

    WaterMan Well-Known Member

    I work in the water industry and their has been countless times we reach in the water and it feels like a million ant's biting your hand. This is all do to a house electrical that has bad wiring with an open neutral and energizing the plumbing system all the way trough the city water system. I received a call one day from the gas company the was removing a gas meter and jumped a 3" spark when the pulled the meter out. We found the house three doors down the street on the other side was the house that had the wiring issue.

    I'm sorry but this is a scary issue. Yah it doesn't happen very often but all you need is one boat that plugs in wrong or a boat that has a ground to the hull and a neutral wire breaks or comes loose.
    Bill Sampson likes this.
  12. potter water

    potter water Well-Known Member

    Having a smaller boat lets us get quickly away from the marina and do our jumping off the boat out on the lake. So we do that because, we are lemmings who follow the rule of law and practices of private companies. However, I too think the risk is overstated about swimming in the marina. Unfortunately, you can sign all the waivers that you want, but there is no way for a company to sign away liability because a user signed a waiver if the company is proved to be at fault. In my flying days and if I sold and airplane to a new owner, I had them sign a waiver of liability. My lawyer looked at it an laughed. He told me it was worthless. He said in the fine print of any sale of a new or used car for example, there is language that you forfeit your right to sue. But it is worthless to the car companies unless some poor schmuck BELIEVES that he or she has no right to sue and so, does not. Was it Shakespeare, no, wait, he makes fishing gear, well, someone said, first we kill all the lawyers?
  13. Docker

    Docker Well-Known Member

    It boils down to more than just risk of electrical shock. It's a Marina, not a pool. Boats are coming and going. The water around a marina is not something I would want to be swimming in. Oil, Gas, Food, Grey and Black Water leaks...I can only imagine what disgusting things are floating around in the water around the marinas. When piloting a boat into your slip the last thing you want to do is come around the corner and find 10 kids swimming around in the alleyway.
    Dan Spitzer likes this.
  14. BartsPlace

    BartsPlace Moderator Staff Member

    I get it and I agree. I am usually more compliant than my kids/friends would like me to be. Just wishing there were a safe compromise available.
  15. Ryan

    Ryan Well-Known Member

    I've had some issues in the marinas. But never had issue an issue of people in the water as a hazard. Everyone seems wise enough to get out of the water when they see a houseboat coming around the corner.
    BartsPlace likes this.
  16. Bill Sampson

    Bill Sampson Well-Known Member

    What my company sees the most is that the ground gets disconnected when docks are relocated, or houses and ppls get remodeled, then never established again. Then you have active voltage in the water looking for a clear path to ground, and many times the swimmer is the clear path. If you go on the internet to the Mike Holt Enterprises website, he covers the issue of swimmers around marinas and swimming pools being shocked. It is something they follow closely around the US.
  17. WaterMan

    WaterMan Well-Known Member

    Yes Bill that is what we see. The current goes to ground and almost all houses ground to the copper water pipes(great ground) in the house and current flows through the pipes to the hot water heater and through the gas hot water heaters to the gas system. if the house main line is copper or galvanize the current flows to the water system if the water mains are steel. Plastic pipes help to reduce this issue.

    It suck's when you reach in the water and get shocked.
    Bill Sampson likes this.
  18. Powelldreamer

    Powelldreamer Well-Known Member

    I believe that yes there is some shared responsibility between users and Aramark. However, the biggest responsibility rests with Aramark . They are the ones that install the systems. They should be checking often the integrity of their systems. They also do next to no instruction to those that have their equipment at the marina. They should when someone procures a slip instruct them and assure that the corrections are made correctly so the owner(s) are aware. Proper equipment inspections should occur by both parties. No jury rigging should be tolerated on either side of this equation.
    BartsPlace and Bill Sampson like this.
  19. Bill Sampson

    Bill Sampson Well-Known Member

    I agree your opinion regarding equipment inspections. When I see and hear of problems, it can usually be traced to a non-electrician doing repairs, or faulty equipment. The story that started this thread talks about a 30 amp plug being inserted into a 50 amp outlet. Usually this cannot be done, and they are different sizes and prong configurations. This had to be jury rigged. What an unfortunate happening.
    BartsPlace likes this.
  20. Michael Pyle

    Michael Pyle Member

    Lots of good points here.

    I still think the risk is very very low of electrical shock at these marinas. And a simple device on the dock could make sure it was known the second it happened.

    If I could add a detector to my dock to get the ability to swim by my dock, I would do it. I bet there are others that would also. This way the marina gets a free system of early warning.

    I think the no swim rule is just some rule makers getting scared of what the don't understand. There are plenty of lakes around the country and world that have solved this problem.