ASBURY PARK, N.J. -- An 11-year-old girl died after she was electrocuted on Saturday while swimming in a lagoon at a friend's house, according to authorities.
The girl, who lived in Newark, N.J., was with a friend on a raft in a Toms River lagoon when they touched the metal boat lift, and an "electric current appears to have energized the equipment causing the injury," police said.
The boat lift involved in the fatal electrocution had corroded and fallen into disrepair, Mayor Thomas Kelaher said.
Kelaher said authorities were at the Tobago Avenue home Monday to inspect the boat lift.
The equipment was initially installed in 2001 and up to code, Kelaher said. Then the property, including the lift, was sold to its current homeowners, who do not own a boat and did not frequently check on the lift.
Over the years, the electrical junction box under the dock corroded, Kelaher said, and the victim fatally placed her hand on the metal frame. A GoFundMe account for the victim has raised over $10,000.
"You can't really blame anybody; it's a tragic accident," Kelaher said. The girls were all wearing life jackets and in the presence of adults, police said. The two other girls were not injured. Though docks and boats are sources of electricity, few people are aware of the risk of electrocution when swimming nearby.
Swimmers should never be in the water near a marina or a running boat, according to the nonprofit organization Electrical Safety Foundation International. Electric Shock Drowning can happen when an electrical current, even a low-level current, passes through the body, according to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association. The current causes muscular paralysis, and majority of these deaths happen near docks or marinas, according to the association. Only 1/50th of the energy needed to power a 60-watt light bulb can cause paralysis and drowning, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation.
More than 70 deaths between 1986 and 2013 were caused by electrocutions near water, according to a 2014 report prepared by Quality Marine Services of Jacksonville, Florida, for the National Fire Protection Association. The company attributed an additional 38 "near misses" over that same time period to electric shocks by water. Boat lifts were responsible for some of those deaths and near misses. In 2012, a man in Minnesota died after three people were shocked in a lake by what was presumed to be a boat lift, according to the report. In 2012, a 13-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother were killed in Missouri while swimming near a private dock with a boat lift and water slide that had power supplies that were not properly grounded, the company found.
Yet in New Jersey, these types are deaths are rare, said Dr. Robert Sweeney, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.
Overall, deaths by electrocutions are relatively rare, he said. Sweeney added that in 25 years of living by the Jersey Shore, he has never before heard of such an incident.
"This sounds like a sad tragic accident," he said.
The Boat Owners Association of The United States describes the risk of electric shock drowning in the below video. If someone suspects that a person in the water is being electrocuted, they should never jump in to help. They should throw in a life ring, turn off the power supply, and call 911, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International.
Tobago Avenue was quiet Sunday afternoon. A woman at the home where the electrocution happened declined to comment. A neighbor said no one on the street knew the girl.
The call to police came in at 8:12 p.m. Saturday. First responders took over CPR that had been begun by adults who were at the home, and then used an Automated External Defibrilator on the girl. The child was taken to Community Medical Center in Toms River, where she later died.
The Toms River incident is under investigation by Toms River Police Detectives Louis Santora and James Carey, along with Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Detective Lindsay Woodfield and Ocean County Sheriff’s Department C.S.I. Sgt. David Deleeuw and Officer Jillian Menke.