About 2am on the 24th of July, 2011, an 18 year old man by the name of David Boyle III placed his bare foot on the metal step of the family’s camper, located in the back yard. He was electrocuted.
In an interview with Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn told “The Star Press” reporter Andrew Walker, “When they would go (into the camper), they would feel a little jolt, so they wrapped the doorknob in electrical tape, they wouldn’t get shocked.”
He also stated that David was shocked when his bare foot went from the wet ground to the metal step. “It caused arrhythmia in (Boyle’s) heart. It appears to be just an accident.”
An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. If the right arrhythmia occurs, or occurs for any length of time, the heart muscle stops. Electricity affects the electrical pathways of the heart itself. As a former Paramedic, I have seen and attempted the resuscitation of more than one electrocution victim.
The Coroner said the camper became energized by an electrical wire running from the house to the camper. No mention was made of what type of wire was used.
RV Travel.com Editor Chuck Woodbury asked RV electrical expert Mike Sokol to comment. He stated: “Anytime you feel a shock or even a tingle while touching the body or doorknob of an RV, it’s a warning that the vehicle has a hot-skin condition. The same goes for any sort of power tool or appliance- you should NEVER feel a shock or tingle. If you do feel a tingle, it means there’s at least 30 volts AC on the chassis and body of the vehicle. And as little as 30 or 40 AC volts through your heart can cause it to go into fibrillation. Without intervention from emergency rescue personnel, you’ll almost certainly die from electrocution.”
Mike Sokol suspected the RV was plugged into a non-grounded outlet or an extension cord with the grounding pin was broken off. He stated, “That allowed the body of the RV to drift up to 100 volts or so. That’s why they put electrical tape on the doorknob; they were feeling an electrical tingle on the knob earlier that week which wasn’t enough to cause electrocution since they were most likely wearing shoes. But they didn’t realize the entire RV body was hot-skin energized, and the boy was standing in bare feet on the wet ground while touching a hot-skin RV which completed the electrical circuit. His heart went into fibrillation, and he died from coronary arrest.”
Fibrillation is a condition where the electrical circuitry of the heart is interrupted or thrown into chaos. The ventricles, or lower chambers of the heart seem to go into a seizure because the electrical impulses are in overload, and telling the muscle to contract rapidly. No blood fills the ventricles, which means no blood can come in through or leave through the atria. In short, the oxygen carrying blood is at a standstill. The heart can’t get oxygen, and it can’t continue to beat without it. Minutes, or even seconds make the difference. Of course, the amount of tissue damage caused by the electricity entering the heart’s electrical fibers can’t be known at the time of the incident. That’s most commonly found out by the treating physician if the patient lives, or by the Coroner if they don’t.
CPR should begin immediately and continue until Emergency Responders arrive and take over.
Sorry to be so blunt, but knowing what happens can save your life. The cold, hard fact is that electricity should never be taken for granted or ignored.
Take Mike Sokol’s advice: “If you ever feel any kind of electrical shock or jolt from your RV you should always unplug from shore power and examine all ground connections. NEVER accept feeling a shock from your RV. It could kill you next time.”
Mike Sokol’s 12-part series, “Understanding RV Electricity,” will be re-published on RV Travel.com’s newsletter.
Here are some RV electrical safety tips in the meantime:
- Only use electrical power cords rated for outdoor use.
- Be certain the power cords are rated to handle the power for your RV.
- If you need adapters, such as a 30amp to 15amp adapter, or a 50amp to 30amp adapter and so on, purchase one before plugging your RV into shore power. Overheated power cords melt and start fires.
- If the grounding pin breaks off the electrical cord- DO NOT continue to use it. Look into having it repaired or replace it.
- If plugging your RV into a house outlet, be certain the house outlet is: a) outdoor GFCI certified, and b) the circuit can handle the electrical load. There’s no sense in starting or tempting a fire in either your RV or your house.
This tragedy was entirely preventable. My sincerest condolences are to the family and friends of this young man. Hopefully, he did not die in vain, but others can learn from this incident and prevent further tragedies.
If you live or vacation in an RV, or have an RV in your driveway/back yard for an extra apartment, double- check to make sure the electrical outlets and power cords are safe.
Source: The Author of this article has had extensive training in the prevention, recognition and care of electrocution injuries as an EMT-Paramedic/Firefighter, State of Texas. Electrician Mount Pleasant SC provides professional electrician services around Mount Pleasant, SC. Call us today at +1 (843) 310-4442 for free quote today.