PEORIA, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5) – Investigators say the boat belonging to two brothers who died at Lake Pleasant over the weekend had an electrical system that wasn’t compatible with the system at Scorpion Bay Marina.
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the electrical inspector with the City of Peoria and an electrical engineer who specializes in the construction of marinas took a look at the scene on Monday. They determined "the Scorpion Bay Marina’s electrical infrastructure was operating properly and safely,” MCSO said Wednesday.
Detectives worked with electrical professionals to recreate the conditions that killed Timothy and Michael Miller, both of whom were in their early 50s. Investigators narrowed the problem down to the Millers' boat. MCSO said no other slips at Scorpion Bay were affected. “The victim’s boat had an electrical connection system which was not compatible with the marina’s receptacle,” MCSO explained in a news release. “Electrical safety features were bypassed by the intentional and improper modification of the boat’s electrical connection system.”
Investigators said electricity was discharged into the water around the swim platform. That’s where Timothy had jumped into the water and did not resurface, according to MCSO. Investigators believe Michael went in to help Timothy but experienced the same symptoms.
According to MCSO, the wife of one of the men then went into the water. Bystanders got her and Michael out. While the woman survived, Michael was pronounced dead that the hospital. Investigators later found Timothy’s body under a deck area.
MCSO made it clear that the electrical system at Scorpion Bay is safe and said people should not be concerned about using the dock.
The incident that killed the Millers is known as electric-shock drowning, which happens when an electric current from a boat, a dock or a light is discharged into water. There are no visible warning signs that the water might be energized and, according to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, a swimmer might not feel the current right away.
While the current in the water can be strong enough to electrocute a victim, ESDPA says it's more common for a low-level current to "cause skeletal muscular paralysis, rendering the victim unable to help himself/herself ..." There might not be any physical indication that the person was shocked while in the water. It just looks like they drowned.
The woman who survived the weekend incident Lake Pleasant reportedly told investigators that she felt like there was a current in the water. That's what prompted the direction of the MCSO investigation.
"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," according to the ESDPA.
In June 2016, a Phoenix father of four was electrocuted in his swimming pool while changing the light.