Boating Safety

Electric Shock Blamed for Arizona Drownings

Scorpion Bay Marina’s electrical system was found to be operating properly, but the boat involved in the incident wasn’t compatible with it.

Officials who investigated the boat and marina where two brothers died at Lake Pleasant in Arizona on the weekend of July 12. It was determined that the boat had an electrical system that wasn’t compatible with the marina’s.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), the electrical inspector from the City of Peoria, Ariz., and an electrical engineer who specializes in marinas examined the scene last week. According to an MCSO statement, they determined, “The Scorpion Bay Marina’s electrical infrastructure was operating properly and safely.”

Improper Modifications

MCSO detectives worked with the electrical inspector and engineer to recreate the conditions that caused the death of brothers Timothy and Michael Miller, both in their early 50s. The problem was narrowed down to their boat. MCSO said no other slips at the marina were affected. “The victim’s boat had an electrical connection system which was not compatible with the marina’s receptacle,” a news release read. “Electrical safety features were bypassed by the intentional and improper modification of the boat’s electrical connection system.”

It’s up to the boat owner to make sure his shorepower plugs are compatible with those at a marina he plans to visit.

Electric Shock Drowning

The investigators explained that electricity was discharged into the water around the boat’s swim platform. This is where Timothy Miller jumped in and did not resurface. Michael then entered the water to render assistance and had the same problems.

According to the MCSO, one of the men’s wives then entered the water. Bystanders retrieved her and Michael’s body. She survived and told the investigators she felt a current in the water.

This is what prompted the MCSO to investigate the incident based on the fatalities being caused by Electric Shock Drowning. This occurs when stray electric current leaks into the water from a boat or dock. It only happens in fresh water and according to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association (ESDPA,

The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association is dedicated to raising awareness about the threat that exists near marinas and docks.

While current in the water can be strong enough to electrocute a person, the association says it’s more common for low-level current to cause skeletal muscular paralysis, which renders the victim unable to swim or help him/herself. There usually is no physical indication that the person was shocked while in the water.

The ESDPA said in a statement, “Although electric shock drowning can occur virtually in any location where electricity is provided near water, the majority of electric shock drowning deaths have occurred in public and private marinas and docks.”