Commonwealth Journal

July 1, 2013

Laurel man saves son before being electrocuted during swim

Mishap occurs at Garland Bend

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Burnside —

“I worked in EMS for 22 years, and I never saw it before.”
Those were the words of Pulaski County Coroner Chuck Godbey, describing the gruesome accident on Lake Cumberland this weekend that claimed the life of a Laurel County man — even as he helped save the life of his own child in the process.
Kevin Short, 34, of Lily, Ky., was killed by electrocu-tion after grabbing an aluminum ladder that had touched a charged wire while he was climbing out of the water.
The accident happened at around 5 p.m. on a private dock about eight miles out Garland Bend Road, in southern Pulaski County near Burnside.
Godbey said that an extension cord used to plug in a “fish finder” device at the dock had slipped behind the ladder and apparently rubbed up against a sharp rock, fraying the cord and exposing the insides.
“There was a bunch of bare wire that came into contact with the aluminum ladder,” said Godbey. “Water and electricity don’t go well together.”
That made it so the ladder itself was charged — and when Short touched it, he got shocked. 
“Once he grabbed it, it’s hard to turn loose because the muscles clench,” said Godbey. “He probably received a pretty good dose.”
Even though it was only a 110-volt cord, which wouldn’t normally be enough to fatally electrocute most people according to Godbey, being in the water intensified the effects on Short’s body.
“You can grab a 110-volt lamp cord and it might knock you down, but most of the time it won’t kill you,” said Godbey. “Do that in a bathtub, and it won’t be the same thing. 
Short was vacationing at the lake with his family present at the time of the accident. Short’s son was there in the water with him. Short actually kept the child away from the ladder to prevent the younger one from being electrocuted as well. As such, nobody else was significantly injured in the incident, said Godbey. (Others did receive some shock while trying to assist Short, however.)
“He had the forethought to shove the kid past the ladder,” said Godbey of Short. “(The child) didn’t touch it.”
Godbey said the cause of death was ruled low-voltage electrocution, enough to stop Short’s heart.
Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson described the incident as a “freak accident.”
Despite the rarity of this type of accident — “It’s the first time it’s happened that I know of,” said the coroner — Godbey did warn others to be careful with how they handle electronics around water.
“It’s never a good thing to have anything plugged up on a dock,” he said. “I know they use those fish finders, but when you’re done, you need to pack up your stuff and move it out of the way.”