Officials stress safety after marina accidents
By Matthew Stewart| http://thedailytimes.com
In the wake of a freak Fourth of July accident that electrocuted two boys and injured several others at Cherokee Lake in Grainger County, local officials are encouraging residents to take precautions when in the water.
Grainger County Sheriff Scott Layel said 11-year-old Nathan Lynam died Thursday night at Children’s Hospital in Knoxville. Ten-year-old Noah Winstead of Morristown died at the scene Wednesday afternoon.
The boys were jumping Wednesday from a houseboat docked at German Creek Marina in Bean Station when witnesses inside the boat said they heard screams, said Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Matt Cameron.
Witnesses ran outside to discover the two boys, and a girl, floating in the water unconscious, he said. They were kept afloat by their life jackets.
Five adults and another child jumped into the water in an attempt to rescue the two boys and the electrified water shocked them as well.
One of the females who attempted to help was forced back after being shocked, Cameron said. A nearby boat came over to help and pulled one of the boys out of the water.
Friends and family members were able to pull the other children, and the adults who tried to assist them, onto the dock, he said. Bystanders began CPR and delivered the injured to members of Grainger County EMS, who had arrived at the shore.
Both boys, the girl, and one of the adults were taken to Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System.
The 11-year-old boy and girl were later transported to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, according to an MHHS press release.
TWRA officials said the girl had been transported to ETCH with non-life threatening injuries.
The unidentified adult was treated and released.
The others injured in the incident were taken to Lakeway Regional Hospital. Cameron said two of those adults remain under observation by the medical staff.
The Cherokee Lake accident was reminiscent of a July 4, 2010, accident at International Harbor Marina in Friendsville.
“The two accidents were similar, but we were fortunate to have a different outcome,” said Friendsville Volunteer Fire Department public information officer Steve Hargis.
A 64-year-old Maryville woman, who was on a houseboat at the Friendsville marina, jumped into the water to rescue a 20-year-old LaFollette woman and a Walland juvenile who were experiencing shocks while in the water. The pair were swimming near the deck of a 32-foot houseboat.
The 64-year-old heard the younger women scream, ran to the back of the boat and heard the victims say something was shocking them. She then jumped into the water to rescue the younger swimmers.
Friendsville fireman Shane Rogers, who lives about two minutes from the marina, responded to the scene and found the three patients. He immediately began CPR, and fireman Steven Cardwell arrived about two minutes later with a support truck and defibrillator.
When Rural/Metro Ambulance Service arrived, the older woman was breathing on her own but was still unconscious. The woman was flown by Lifestar to University of Tennessee Medical Center.
The 64-year-old remained at the hospital for a brief time before being released. The younger women were less-seriously injured.
Rogers and Cardwell received the 2011 Firefighters of the Year award for their actions. Both men were also awarded a Heroes Award by the Blount County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Responders face challenges
First responders faced several challenges when responding to the 2010 accident.
The accident’s main challenge was its unique nature, Hargis said. “As a first responder at Friendsville Volunteer Fire Department, we run on about 90 percent of calls, ranging from a splinter in someone’s body to an accident such as this one. No two calls are the same. However, our fire department and surrounding departments prepare for these events. We train for different scenarios, keep up-to-date on CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training.”
Emergency personnel also took precautions to ensure their own safety, he said. They first had to kill power to the Friendsville marina before proceeding with rescue efforts.
People should adhere to safe practices when they’re in the water, according to Rodney Phillips, Tellico Marina manager. They must take precautions against potential dangers and use common sense.
Tellico Marina’s staff also plans to review safety measures in the near future, he said.
Most marinas also prohibit swimming, Cameron said. “First of all, you have boats plugged into an electrical source. If there’s a short in the electrical current, it will radiate in the water. You also have boats going in and out of slips with their propellers that pose potential dangers. Not to mention, generators produce carbon monoxide that people can inhale. There’s a lot of hazards.”
He advised people to take precautions and wear life jackets.
The Citizen Tribune contributed to this story.