East Moline families work for change after Lake of the Ozarks electric shock death

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

He was on a family vacation at Lake of the Ozarks, swimming into shore with his girlfriend... when they felt it.

"They felt a current in the water, a tingling sensation and they weren't sure what it was and that's when Marcus grabbed the ladder and was electrocuted," said David Baird, the Uncle of Marcus' girlfriend, Taylor.

What happened after that, family members can only describe as "pure chaos."

"It was a sense of panic," said Anna Adamson, whose fiance is Taylor's cousin. "The children were screaming and then every minute going by just seemed like another hour."

"I got the devastating phone call around 10:30pm that night," said Mia Nino, Marcus' cousin. "It was such an unexpected tragedy. You would never think something like that would happen to your family, especially when they're supposed to be away on vacation having a good time."

Marcus Colburn was just 21 years old when he died as a result of Electric Shock Drowning on Father's Day, June 21st, 2015. The East Moline man was laid to rest on his 22nd birthday, June 26th, 2015.

A report from Quality Marine Services, LLC - which put together a list of Electric Shock Drownings from 1981 to 2015 - reported "a faulty junction box between dock and residence is suspected."

The report goes on: "The occupants tried to reset the circuit breaker but it would trip after 10-15 seconds of being turned on. The last attempt to turn the breaker on coincided with the 2 swimmers being near the dock as it got dark (breaker controlled dock lights)."

Marcus' death has put Baird, Adamson, and Nino on a mission. They want to spread the word about the dangers of Electric Shock Drowning, but also make a change.

"Something so traumatic could have been prevented by just a few dollars," explained Adamson.

The two families are coming together and asking the Osage Beach, Missouri Board to require annual inspections on all docks to ensure every dock has a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), which protect against electrical shocks.

"These have to be installed in garages, bathrooms, in the home, swimming pools," explained Adamson. "Why is it not required for docks where there's electricity? We want people to know that if you are going to be swimming where there is electricity, to turn it off or don't swim because it's not always your dock. It can be your neighbor's dock 250 feet away and you can still feel the electricity."

The team also wants informational signs posted at each dock.

"When you enter the dock, we would like a three-point sign," explained Baird. "The first point is that if there's electricity around, it's dangerous around the dock, the boat, a pontoon, a jet ski, or anything with metal and electricity. The second point is what to do, because people are just ignorant and unaware. The third point is CPR procedures."

The Osage Beach Board meets on July 18th, 2015 to discuss the incident and any possible changes. If you would like to show your support for the group's plan, you can sign a petition by clicking here.

Baird said Marcus' death is not the only one that's happened at Lake of the Ozarks. On July 4th, 2012, Angela Anderson lost two of her children as a result of Electric Shock Drowning. Anderson created a Facebook Page in memory of them and is also trying to make a difference.

"Anderson has really paved the way for us and we feel like we are not going  to stop until we are heard," said Adamson. "We're not going to stop."

Three days after that incident, on July 7th, 2012, a 26-year-old woman also died as a result of Electric Shock Drowning at Lake of the Ozarks, according to the report from Quality Marine Services, LLC.

"Why does nobody care to do something to prevent it?" added Nino. "Like how many deaths will it take before something actually happens?"

"A person that owns that property, that dock, that land has to be responsible," said Baird. "The community that they live in has to be responsible. The state that that community's in has to be responsible. The insurance companies that insure these have to be responsible and it's as little as getting a GFCI installed."

"We got to do something," he said. "It's going to happen again."

"We want change and we want it now," added Adamson.

"We need to be heard," concluded Nino. "This is a serious problem that's not being taken seriously."

These incidents have taken place in other areas besides Lake of the Ozarks, according to the Quality Marine Services, LCC report. On August 1st, 1999, an eight-year-old boy named Lucas Ritz was electrocuted at the Multnomah Channel in Portland, Oregon. His father, Kevin Ritz, created this video to tell his story and explain what to do if you ever feel an electric current in the water.

3 comments

  • joycegodwingrubbs2

    My son’s place on Lake Ozark had an old dock which he replaced after buying the property. I was there to meet the workmen. They told me of many dock incidents and how my son’s was protected now with the new materials/technology. They said there were many docks that were “at risk”. This has been at least 5 years ago and seemingly nothing has been done, so I wish the family the best and am so very sorry it took yet another catastrophe to bring it about. I hope the Ozarks governmental powers now exercise some new regulations to save the lives of others.

  • R. S. Clark

    A GFCI on it’s own is no assurance of protection. Underwriter Labs has recently updated standards for GFCI receptacles, but the correct GFCI must be selected for the purpose, and properly installed. Basically, there are indoor and outdoor rated GFCI receptacles, as well as GFCI breakers. Someone may think they’re saving a few dollars in getting a cheap GFCI, but it’s a good investment to buy the proper one. It must also be installed in a suitable box with the proper rated cover. GFCI receptacles only protect people from their location onward. If the fault is in the wiring feeding the GFCI receptacle, the GFCI receptacle will not detect the problem or protect anyone from the hazard. It may not be as convenient, and more expensive, but a GFCI breaker is often a better choice for protection. The proper solution is not GFCI protection alone, but proper grounding and bonding. Proper bonding ensures that there is a low resistance path for the short circuit current (a.k.a. leakage current) to return to the overcurrent device (fuse or breaker) to trip it quickly. In this story, it was stated that the offending source breaker was holding for 10 minutes or so at a time. Proper bonding would have tripped the breaker nearly instantaneously. These are the reasons why the National Fire Protection Association, producers of the National Electrical Code, has greatly increased the required installation of both Ground Fault and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters in many occupancies. The regulations covering boat docks and the like have been in the NEC for a very long time. It’s up to localities to adopt and enforce it’s provisions. Many states have no licensing for electricians, including Illinois, and many localities don’t enforce electrical inspections or even have a certified electrical inspector conducting their inspections. It was not that long ago that the Knox county, Illinois board voted down requiring electrical inspections, and it wasn’t long after that a young farmer was electrocuted using a pressure washer without proper grounding or GFCI protection. Few people see the expense of a proper electrical installation as an investment in safety. One of the saddest electrocutions that I can recall involved a young girl who was sitting on a warm, cast iron radiator near a window, and reached over to turn on a lamp with a faulty cord. Another would be the young boy who jumped up on his neighbor’s A/C compressor to hop a metal fence (improperly grounded compressor’s case became energized), or the teens de-tasseling corn who touched an irrigation machine. Electrical hazards are everywhere, and proper installation is a necessary first step to safety, followed by proper maintenance and operation.

  • Renee Valentine

    A GFCI is no guarantee of protection. They can fail. Also, it seemed in this case that the GFCI was doing its job, that is why the breaker kept tripping and shutting power off to the dock. Whoever turned that breaker on effectively killed this young man because they were ignorant of the reason a breaker would trip. If your dock power is off, and the breaker trips, CALL AN ELECTRICIAN. When that happens, it is to let you know there is a problem. Be careful who you call as well because there are NO licensing requirements for electricians in Missouri, and any idiot could be working on your dock.

Comments are closed.