(CBSNEWS) – The parents of 15-year-old Carmen Johnson, who tragically died from electric shock drowning while swimming near her family’s Alabama lake house last April, are speaking out about the rarely reported phenomenon after it took the lives of two more local women this past weekend.
The two women, 34-year-old Shelly Darling and 41-year-old Elizabeth Whipple, went missing after sunbathing on Lake Tuscaloosa Friday afternoon. Their bodies were retrieved from the lake early Saturday morning. Preliminary autopsies for the two victims show the cause of death as electrocution, the Tuscaloosa County Homicide Unit told CBS affiliate WIAT on Wednesday.
“I’ve been around water all my life and I never thought that electricity in a huge body of water like that could do what it did,” Carmen’s father, Jimmy Johnson, 49, told CBS News. “It is something that even people like me now after all these years never had any idea that this even happened.”
Every day, about 10 people in the U.S. die from accidental drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But electric shock drownings are difficult to track. It’s known as a “silent killer.”
Even a low level of electric current in the water can be extremely hazardous or fatal to a swimmer — especially in freshwater, where experts say the voltage will “take a shortcut” through the human body.
“There is no visible warning or way to tell if water surrounding a boat, marina or dock is energized or within seconds will become energized with fatal levels of electricity,” the non-profit Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association reports.
In fact, Johnson says, he never would have known what happened to his daughter if he hadn’t felt the electric current himself while trying to jump in to save her.