NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Time has flown by since Jessica McClure was last able to hold her son Noah Dean. “When I started pulling pictures I got a little sad still thinking he’d be 20 years old.”
McClure says she’s been without her son now longer than she’s been with him. “He was born on Valentine’s Day in 2002, and died July 4, 2012.”
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What was supposed to be a fun day at Cherokee Lake turned into tragedy over a decade ago.
“It’s every parent’s worse nightmare and when they called me…I replay the phone call often,” said McClure.
McClure soon learned her son and his best friend, Nate Lynam, had been electrocuted while swimming.
“He died pretty much immediately,” she said. “Nate on the other hand was able to communicate that they were being electrocuted.”
It took months for McClure to talk about what happened, but she’s worked to move forward and realized a change needed to be made.
“We went to Nashville and I had to speak several times,” she said. “It was hard, but I’m so so grateful I did because I never understood the impact of how much it is to educate someone.”
In 2014, the Noah Dean and Nate Act was passed, requiring all of Tennessee’s public marinas and docks to be inspected by the State’s Fire Marshal Office.
“We inspect them for electrical safety,” said Kevin Walters. “We inspect them to ensure electric shock drownings won’t occur.”
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Walters works for the State Fire Marshal’s office and says, along with inspections, marinas are required to put up signage and comply with equipment requirements to prevent possible electric shocks and electrocution.
“It’s a program that we hope is creating safe lives and a safe recreational environment across Tennessee,” he said.
And with many families planning to hit the water this Labor Day, McClure hopes her son’s story will be a reminder for everyone to be alert and aware. “I don’t want any parent, family member, or friend to have to deal with the realizations that we have dealt with.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office shared these tips to help avoid electric shock hazards:
- Never swim within 100 yards of any freshwater marina or boatyard.
- If you own a boat, have your boat tested once a year to see if it is leaking electricity, or buy a clamp meter and test it yourself.
- If you find any problems, have your boat inspected by a qualified electrician trained to American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards. Have a qualified ABYC electrician install an Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupter (ELCI) on your boat or use an ELCI in the shore power cord. As an alternative, install an isolation transformer on the boat.
- Test the ELCI at least once a month or per the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Never use common household extension cords for providing shore power to your boat. Use, and encourage other boaters to use, shore power cords built to Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards.
- Never dive on your boat to work on underwater fittings when the boat is plugged into shore power.
- If you’re in the water and feel tingling or shocks, do not follow your instinct to swim toward the dock. Instead, swim away 100 yards or more away from the dock.
- If you feel tingling in the water, let everyone around you know what is occurring so they will understand the danger and react appropriately.
- Once ashore, alert the dock or marina owner and tell them to shut the power off to the dock until they locate the problem and correct it.
- If you must rescue an electric shock drowning victim, fight the instinct to enter the water. Many rescuers have died trying to help electric shock drowning victims.
- Call for help. Use 9-1-1 or VHF Channel 16 as appropriate.
- Turn off the shore power connection at the meter base and/or unplug shore power cords.
- Get the victim out of the water.
- If the person is not breathing or you cannot find a pulse, perform CPR until the emergency responders arrive.
They also have a list of all the inspected public marinas in the state you can view HERE.