Two young teenage girls nearly drowned Saturday when extension cords coming from a nearby home shocked and momentarily paralyzed them.
“We found two electrical cords coming from a house on shore down to a houseboat and also onto the dock. It looked like there was some maintenance work going on with some power tools,” said Lake Cowichan Fire Chief Doug Knotts.
Knotts said the call came just before 5 p.m. and when they got there, the girls were in shock but safely on the shore. He says luckily, the girls were swimming close to the dock and a man was nearby that pulled them out of the water.
“If you’ve ever had a shock on shore, you get a feeling where you can’t hold anything in your hand anymore. Well in water it does that to your whole body because fresh water is a very poor conductor and our bodies are excellent conductors,” said Knotts.
And while it’s more prominent in freshwater Knotts says this kind of thing can also happen in salt water.
If someone hadn’t been nearby the girls could have died, Knotts adds. Especially because it doesn’t take very much voltage to cause someone’s body to feel paralyzed.
“It only takes ten milliamps to cause skeletal muscular paralysis. The electrical milliamps will travel into our bodies and paralyze us. It can be a cord it doesn’t necessarily have to be submerged” said Knotts.
The building inspector and the province?s electrical safety branch will follow up with the homeowner to address safety concerns.
“It’s kind of an education thing for everyone,” Knotts said. “You need to have ground fault breakers. If the wires had been on ground fault breakers they would have tripped before they gave a shock.”