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Safe Electricity Shares the Story of Lucas Ritz to Raise Electric Shock Drowning Awareness

For Release: May 21, 2014Lucas Story

Contact: Kyla Kruse, 217-546-6815, kekruse@illinois.edu

More details, including photos and b-roll: www.safeelectricity.org/news-room

 

Safe Electricity Shares the Story of Lucas Ritz to Raise Electric Shock Drowning Awareness

(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -It is a family's nightmare. An enjoyable summer day of swimming-with kids wearing life jackets and their mom closely supervising-turns tragic when a little boy is killed amid the fun in the marina. This is a reality the Ritz family has to live with as they seek to teach others about the hidden danger that claimed 8-year-old Lucas.

"One second he was splashing...having a great time, and the next moment he's quiet," says Lucas' father, Kevin Ritz. What was not visible was the electricity leaking into the water from a boat plugged in to shore power. Lucas was killed as he swam into the energized water.

May 17-23 is National Safe Boating Week and draws attention to the need to prepare for a safe season on the water. Working with Safe Electricity's "Teach Learn Care TLC" program, the Ritz family is taking this time to encourage everyone to learn how to avoid and prevent what is known as electric shock drowning (ESD). A video of Lucas' story is at SafeElectricity.org.

Kevin now works with the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) as an ABYC Master Marine Technician who trains certified technicians and others. He advises, "Never swim in a marina or around docks with power and boats that are plugged in; but, since people fall into the water in these areas, it's important they know how to react if electricity is in the water."

If you are in the water and feel electric current, shout to let others know, try to stay upright, and swim away from anything that could be energized. If you are on the dock or shore when a swimmer feels electrical current, do not jump in. Throw them a float, turn off the shore power connection at the meter base, and/or unplug shore power cords. Try to eliminate the source of electricity as quickly as possible; then call for help.

If you have a boat or dock, help prevent electrical accidents by inspecting and maintaining all electrical systems on or near the water. These measures are recommended for boats:

  • Regardless of the size of boat, maintenance of the electrical system should be done by a professional familiar with marine electrical codes.
  • Fuses are rated to protect the wire, not the appliance. If a fuse blows continuously, it should NOT be replaced with a larger one just to keep it from blowing again-something else is wrong. Get it checked out.
  • Have your boat's electrical system checked at least once a year. Boats should also be checked when something is added to or removed from their systems.
  • Boats with alternating current (AC) systems should have isolation transformers or equipment leakage circuit interrupter (ELCI) protection, comply with ABYC standards, and should be serviced by an ABYC Certified® Technician.

What you need to know about electrical safety and docks:

  • Have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breaker installed on the circuit(s) feeding electricity to the dock. A GFCI will trip the circuit and cut off power quickly if there is a problem.
  • The metal frame of docks should be bonded to connect all metal to the AC safety ground at the power source.
  • Neighboring docks can also present a shock hazard. Make your neighbor aware of the need for safety inspections and maintenance. Marinas should comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes.
  • All electrical installations should be done by a professional electrical contractor familiar with marine codes and standards.
  • Because docks are exposed to the elements, their electrical systems should be inspected at least once a year.

"Every time we have to go back and think about and talk about what happened, it's tough," says Lucas' mom, Sheryl Ritz, "but the reason that we do it is we keep tracking this stuff, and it's still happening. People don't know, and that was us 14 years ago."

Kevin adds, "You don't want this to happen to you....That hole will never be filled, and it's so simple to resolve."

Learn more and see Lucas' story at SafeElectricity.org.

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The Energy Education Council is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency. Established in 1952, the Council is headquartered within the University of Illinois Extension, and serves as a forum for diverse utility and energy organizations to collaborate on the mutually vital issues of efficiency and safety. Learn more at www.EnergyEdCouncil.org.