One minute Jimmy Johnson was on the dock, enjoying the sound of laughter as his 15-year-old daughter and her friends played in the lake. But only moments later, the laughter turned to screams. And now, the family is out to warn everyone of electric shock drowning — the surprisingly common danger they never expected would turn their fun day on the lake into a one of tragedy.
Fun Day Turns Tragic
As the weather turned warmer, the Johnson family decided to spend some time at their lake home. Their teenage daughter, Carmen, had brought along some friends, and the teenagers were having a great time riding jet skis and playing in the water.
After spending some time relaxing in the sun, Carmen returned to the water and laughingly beckoned her pals to join her. One friend obliged, and so Jimmy decided to lower the ladder from the dock so the girls would have a way to climb out of the lake once they were done swimming. But as soon as the metal ladder hit the water, everything changed.
Jimmy heard screaming. It was Carmen’s friend, who was clinging to the ladder. Carmen was beneath the water. Jimmy immediately jumped into the lake, and searing pain instantly told him what the problem was.
“As soon as I dove in, I could feel what was going on. I could feel electric current all through my body,” he recalled.
Just before blacking out, Jimmy yelled to his wife, Casey, to cut the power to the dock. She did so immediately, and while Jimmy was able to help Carmen’s friend out of the water, Carmen had already sunk to the bottom of the lake. He dove in repeatedly, searching desperately for his daughter, but with no luck. It later took rescue divers about two hours to find her.
Electric Shock Drowning To Blame
What was to blame for the nightmarish turn of events was a complete shock to Jimmy and Casey. Unbeknownst to them, weather-beaten wiring on the dock sent an electric current through the ladder and into the water. The electric shock is what caused Carmen to drown. And had Casey not cut the power as quickly as she did, Jimmy and Carmen’s friend would have perished too.
After doing some research on electric shock drowning, Carmen’s heartbroken parents were stunned by just how common this hidden danger is.
“You may have perfect wiring on your dock but with the weather, the movement of the boat docks, within minutes, your wiring could become faulty,” Casey said.
They quickly realized how easy it would be for another family to suffer the same horrifying experience. And that’s when the Johnson’s decided to use their daughter’s tragic death to raise awareness of electric shock drowning and the ways to help prevent it.
Jimmy’s research uncovered a device called Dock Lifeguard, created in Missouri by a man close to a family who experienced a similar tragedy. It’s an installable system that triggers an alarm when there is any electrical current on the dock and in the water for up to a 40-foot radius.
Jimmy is using his own audio/visual business to try to sell Dock Lifeguard, in the hopes it can save lives. The family even had the inventor film a demo video for the device at their lake house, in the exact same spot where they lost Carmen.
Pushing For Change
In addition to raising awareness about electric shock drowning and Dock Lifeguard, the Johnson family is also pushing to see policies changed. Specifically, they are hoping to see required wiring inspections on docks, as well as a move to ladders made from plastic or carbon fiber, versus the highly conductive metal.
“This is my passion for Carmen, it’s my way of keeping Carmen here with me,” explained Casey.
And so, the family leans on their faith in God to use their daughter’s death for a greater purpose. They are trusting Him to not only use Carmen’s story to save others from electric shock drowning but to use the memory of this sweet, caring soul to lead others to Him.
Carmen’s brother-in-law, Evan, put it beautifully in his address at her Life Celebration.
“When she [Carmen] closed her eyes here on earth, she opened them up in Heaven. And I know that God grabbed her hand and pulled her in. And I know more than anything that she would want each and every one of you to be able to do the same. So, I hope that, more than anything, out of what Carmen has brought to us for 15 short years — she allows you to have the same opportunity to one day wake up in glory next to her. It’s a very special thing to know the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I hope one day that each and every one of you can. And I hope that Carmen’s life has touched you in that way.”
Please lift this incredible family up in prayer as they go through this difficult time. What an inspiration it is to turn it all over to the Almighty for a greater purpose.
Please share this story to keep the Johnsons’ mission to raise awareness of electric shock drowning going.
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"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
h/t: NBC 12 News
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