Electroshock Drowning is a topic in which myself and many others have been very vocal about these past few years and I have written about it many times in my magazine articles. It is a phenomenon which has been occurring in fresh water marinas, cottage docks and anywhere boats are moored and plugged into shore supplied AC (alternating) electrical current. It occurs when AC current, by way of faulty electrical wiring or appliances either on board the boat or on the dock leak current into the water and if persons or animals (yes pets and wildlife are susceptible to this too) are in the water nearby, the current travels through their bodies causing paralysis and even death.
Here is the equation: AC electrical power is supplied to boat shore power systems typically in the range of 15-30 amps …… .6 of an amp of electrical current is enough to stop your heart almost instantly if it travels through your body in an effort to reach ground.
How does this occur: It occurs when, through a wiring fault or a fault with an AC appliance allows stray current to travel through the boats DC ground circuits which include underwater metallic components such as the prop shaft or stern drive. Think of your boat when plugged into shore power as similar to a hair dryer plugged in and floating in the bathtub. This in effect electrifies the water in the immediate vicinity of the affected boat. Anyone swimming nearby can be affected by this as the electrical current moves from the charged water to ground. If you remember your basic electrical theory electricity always moves from the source to ground and if your body gets in the way it will pass right through you and your heart.
Another point that you need to be aware of is that this occurs mostly in fresh water situations, much more so than in salt water. This is because salt water is a better conductor than fresh water and any current dissipates rapidly after it enters the water. In fresh water it remains at a concentrated level in the immediate area surrounding the boat. And when you take into consideration that the high salinity levels of the human body actually make it a better conductor than the water itself, just by being in the water we actually provide the best path for the current to move to ground.
This is a very brief overview on how this can occur and is occurring. I will have much more to say in future posts. For more on this I invite you to visit a couple of websites dedicated to this phenomenon. I will add them to my links page as well.
http://www.electricshockdrowning.org/ This site is operated by Kevin Ritz who has a very deep connection to this issue.
http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/magazine/2013/july/electric-shock-drowning-explained.asp A very good article by Boat US which offers a very good description on how to inspect for electrical leakage aboard boats.
http://www.boatingmag.com/how-to/electric-shock-drowning-prevention More good information.