Parents raising awareness about electrical shock drowning - Tucson News Now

Parents raising awareness about electrical shock drowning

Carmen Johnson. Source: Family Carmen Johnson. Source: Family

One month ago Carmen Johnson, 15, died while swimming with friends in Smith Lake in Winston County. Her parents, Casey and Jimmy, say her death was caused by electrical shock drowning.

The parents said April 16 started out like any other day. Carmen and her friends had been out on the lake riding jet skis. They had come back to the boat dock and were laying out in the sun.

Jimmy was working on the dock when he heard Carmen jump into the water. He heard her laughing and trying to convince her friends to jump in as well.

After a few minutes, another friend jumped in. About that same time Jimmy lowered the metal ladder into the lake so the girls would have a way to climb out of the lake.

Jimmy said when the ladder hit the water, it sent an electrical current through the water. He heard Carmen's friend scream for help. When he peered over the dock, he could see Carmen's friend clinging to the ladder and Carmen underwater around her friend's knees.

Jimmy said he jumped in the water to try to save the girls and that's when he immediately felt the electric current. Before he blacked out, he yelled to his wife Casey, "Cut off the power to the boat dock."

Ironically, the weekend before, Jimmy had shown Casey where the power cut off switch was located near the back door. Jimmy said if Casey had gone all the way to the other side of the house to the breakers, everyone in the water would have likely died, including himself.

Jimmy said he was able to help Carmen's friend get out of the water, but Carmen had already sunk to the bottom. He tried himself to dive and find Carmen, but wasn't successful.

The Johnsons say it took divers about two hours to recover Carmen's body.

Through their investigation, the Johnsons believe water filled an electrical box on the boat dock sending the electrical charge through the metal on the dock.  When the metal ladder went into the water, it transferred the electrical current from the dock into the water.  The family isn't sure if the electrical box filled with water over time or if it happened during flooding on Christmas Day.  April 16 was the first time they had been in the water since Christmas Day.

Carmen was a varsity cheerleader at Priceville High School. Her mom says she had dreams of becoming a cheerleader at the University of Alabama.

The Johnsons are using Carmen's death to raise awareness about electrical shock drowning.

In the past month, they have found a piece of equipment called Dock Lifeguard. Once installed, it will detect an electrical current in the metal on a boat dock and in the water up to a 40 foot radius.

The Johnsons said Dock Lifeguard was created by a man in Missouri after someone he knew lost her two sons due to electrical shock drowning.

Jimmy Johnson plans to sell Dock Lifeguard in conjunction with his audio/visual business in Decatur.

For more information about Dock Lifeguard visit

For more information about Carmen, you can visit her memorial Facebook page here.

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