Rescue In an Electrically Charged Pool

gwegan

TFP Expert
Apr 19, 2013
2,769
Sacramento, CA
Attached below is a tragic story of a man who lost his life trying to save his daughter in an electrically charged pool.

Silicon Valley exec dies trying to save daughter in pool - SFGate

We don't know all the facts but one lesson is clear: If there is any sign that the problem is electrical (i.e. two persons in distress at the same time) turn off the power at the pad before attempting a rescue.

A couple of other points:

This happened in Palm Springs at a residence. Palm Springs has many older pools which have less than perfect grounding and no or little bonding. While we don't know the cause here, bonding significantly reduces the risk of this type of injury. Its not just something for the inspector to be picky about.

Second, it points out why all your pool equipment, lights, pump, swg, whatever, and probably the outdoor kitchen should all run through the same subpanel by the pad so you can quickly kill all electrical power to the pool and everything nearby. Each member of your family should be trained on how to shut off the power. If this man had only known to to kill the local power first he would be alive and his daughter might not be so injured.
 

jblizzle

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May 19, 2010
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Given the limited information in the article, it does not necessarily sound like a bonding problem if they were getting shocked just being in the water.

I too wonder if the light was faulty and not on a GFCI protected circuit applying a charge to the water :scratch:

Very sad :(
 

Matrioux

Platinum Supporter
Jun 8, 2015
82
Charlotte, NC.
Gwegan,

Thanks for the heads up on how to handle a electrical issue and that as counter intuitive as is it, take the time to kill the power before attempting rescue.

Maybe we need a faq on common and uncommon pool emergencies. I am not sure I could reason out the best way to deal with an emergency if my child was in the pool in distress.
 

JohnT

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Second, it points out why all your pool equipment, lights, pump, swg, whatever, and probably the outdoor kitchen should all run through the same subpanel by the pad so you can quickly kill all electrical power to the pool and everything nearby. Each member of your family should be trained on how to shut off the power. If this man had only known to to kill the local power first he would be alive and his daughter might not be so injured.

There is no certainty that the power from the home is the source of electricity in such a scenario. A metal ladder at the neighbor's house falling onto a power line could do it as could a piece of construction equipment half a block away touching a line. A fiberglass pole with a hook is the best rescue option.

Given the limited information in the article, it does not necessarily sound like a bonding problem if they were getting shocked just being in the water.

Proper bonding would prevent being shocked in the water. Chances are good what was happening was current flowing through the pool such as from a light to a ladder. Current flow requires voltage difference, and bonding eliminates voltage differences in and near the pool whether the source of electricity is in the pool or a distance away.

I am not sure I could reason out the best way to deal with an emergency if my child was in the pool in distress.

This is of course the culprit. The first instinct is to jump in and help your child. In reality it's like oxygen masks on a plane: You have to remain able to help, even if that means you delay helping them. Would be a horrible situation.
 

bigevilgrape

Well-known member
Mar 5, 2016
102
Central CT
Gwegan,

Thanks for the heads up on how to handle a electrical issue and that as counter intuitive as is it, take the time to kill the power before attempting rescue.

Maybe we need a faq on common and uncommon pool emergencies. I am not sure I could reason out the best way to deal with an emergency if my child was in the pool in distress.

I would be very intrested in this, and maybe including the recommended frequency of different safety checks for your pool/recommended safety equipment.

As to knot knowing how to deal if your child is in distress the best way is to practice until it becomes ingrained in everyone brains. When I taught swim lessons we always did lots of practice on how to help someone else (For little ones that means throwing something that floats to the person and then getting a grown up) and how to get yourself out of a pool without a ladder. It would probably be worth running drills for the family a few times a summer where you turn off the power and do an age appropriate rescue of a toy. That's basically how they drill rescues into you in life guarding classes. You do it over and over and over.

Edit to add: we never teach kids to go in after a person in trouble, just to throw or reach with a pole as the risk of becoming a second victim is to great if they go in after someone.
 

setsailsoon

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How awful!

Thanks for sharing this as the only good thing that comes from these tragedies is that others will learn and re-enforce safety/emergency response.

There's not enough info in the article to really discern the cause but it could be a faulty GFCI breaker or a non-GFCI installed because they're way cheaper or it was an old installation. We've enjoyed our pool so much I haven't thought to test our GFCI breakers. Those test buttons are there for a reason and I'll check them today! Also makes me glad we have low-voltage LED lighting!

Thanks again for sharing this.

Chris
 

jblizzle

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When we moved into our 70s house, I found that the light was not on a GFCI at all. I think the first thing I did was add a GFCI outlet at the pad that now provides the power to the light.

Not that this is necessarily what was the problem in this case, but certainly points to the urgency to understand your pool/house/etc.
 

borjis

LifeTime Supporter
Aug 19, 2014
3,385
Pacific NW
my last house was like that...no gfci for the light...I fixed it before the swim season that year.

also the bonding wire was not connected at the pump. fixed that too before any swimming was done.

My new place has no bond wire so I'm going to bond the ladder to the pump and heater neither of
which are connected via bond lugs together yet...but it will be done before swimming begins next month.

Also installed a gfci breaker for the equipment some months ago.

Safety Fast!
 

Pool Tool

Well-known member
May 15, 2014
761
Western Chicago Area, IL
After some off season research, I'm finding my light may be without gfci protection and existing bonds are hit and miss. No excuse as I should have been more diligent last season with a "new to me" pool. I plan to upgrade to SWG and currently planning a PL-Plus to use the included subpanel and proper gfci for lights. Scary stuff.
 

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JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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I worked in many "science labs" in my working days and every lab had an EPO (Emergency Power OFF) switch (or two) situated at the door so that, at the first sign of trouble you could kill all power going into the room.

Makes me wonder if there isn't some utility for that in pools....
 
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