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Ameren won't change Lake of the Ozarks dock safety requirements

Monday, July 9, 2012 | 7:04 p.m. CDT; updated 3:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 10, 2012

COLUMBIA — Two recent cases of electrocutions at the Lake of the Ozarks have made many people more aware of dock safety.

Ameren Missouri, which owns the lake, encourages homeowners to inspect their docks regularly, Mark Jordan, managing supervisor in the company's real estate department, said.

There were two incidents of electrocution deaths this past week at the lake. The first was Wednesday afternoon in Gravois Arm, where siblings Alexandra Anderson, 13, and Brayden Anderson, 8, were killed while swimming near their family dock.

The second case claimed the life of Jennifer Lankford, 26, of Hazelwood on Saturday evening in Dry Branch Cove

Jordan believes it was coincidence that the two tragedies occurred over the span of just a few days. He added that there are generally one or two cases of electrocutions every year.

Ameren has published the proper codes for dock wiring, Jordan said.

“We don’t have any plans to make any changes at this time," he said. "But we expect landowners to make sure their electric systems are working properly to standard.”

Ameren issues permits for residential docks on the lake and also has a set of requirements for electrical wiring for these docks. It also requires that local fire districts inspect any new docks that include electrical wiring.

Jordan emphasized that although these requirements are set, it is homeowner’s responsibility to check for electrical problems regularly. He noted that docks are routinely hit by waves from boat wakes, which can result in loose wiring.

The bottom line, Jordan said, is that water and electricity can be a dangerous mix if homeowners don't ensure their docks meet codes.

Dan Strickland, a certified master electrician in Eldon, agreed the two incidents of electrocutions were a coincidence, but both are making people more aware of dock safety. 

He said older docks are most vulnerable to improper wiring because all new docks need to be inspected by a fire district.

Improper wiring on a neighbor’s dock can cause problems for those swimming nearby, Strickland said, emphasizing that all docks need to be up to standard code in order to avoid threatening neighbors.

Strickland said that people would be able to feel 90 percent of the electrical current if they are within three feet of a broken circuit. They would be unable to feel it nine to 10 feet away.

“If you feel something, move away. Swim the opposite direction,” Strickland said. “Don’t touch any docks. Swim directly to shore.”


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Comments

Ray Shapiro July 10, 2012 | 3:09 p.m.

Considering that the lake is owned by Ameren, and people are being electrocuted in the lake's waters, at the very least Ameren should be advocating that the Marine Operations Division of the Missouri Highway Patrol sweep the lake areas close to these docks to discover areas where dangerous electric currents flow, mark them off limits and take corrective action.
Chasing down recreational boaters, drinking beer on the lake, is all well and good, however, not sweeping the lake for deadly electric currents, following recent deadly electrocution incidents, seems neglectful.
If Columbia can hassle its residents for tall lawn grass, then shouldn't the lake's owner be held somewhat accountable for its lake property?
How many more youngsters and adults must die before these waters are scanned for dangerous spots?
Perhaps Ameren should post a "no trespassing" sign on its lake and just close it down, if no one is willing to patrol it for high voltage water.

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