As marine business insurance specialists, we know that marinas have to be scrupulous about compliance and vigilant about safety.
A recent Traverse City case involving the marina electrocution drowning of a teenage boy underscores how seriously things can go wrong if standards are lax.
In August of 2011, Michigan teenager Michael Knudsen and his friends decided to jump into West Grand Traverse Bay – despite the no swimming signs posted inside the marina breakwall.
It was a decision made in a moment of crazy youthful impulsiveness that had devastating consequences. When Knudsen jumped from the end of F-Dock into the water, he was shocked by electricity and killed. The tragedy reached the entire community.
According to the court proceedings for the $50-million lawsuit filed by the teenager’s estate against Traverse City and other defendants, Knudsen’s final moments were agonizing. As horrified friends watched, he struggled to pull himself out of the water and away from the electric shock onto the dock platform. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.
During the trial, the issue of blame put the spotlight on various parties involved: the boys for ignoring the no swimming sign, the city for allegedly not ensuring electrical standards for electrical maintenance were met, and those behind the marina renovation whose design and construction allegedly caused the water to become electrified.
The investigation into liability for the fatal accident has raised some frightening details. It seems the designer for the electric system recommended fiberglass junction boxes for installation, but metal boxes (that conduct electricity) were used instead.
Another concern, contested by the city, alleges that officials failed to ensure proper maintenance for F-Dock and did not perform proper annual inspections of the electrical system. Additionally, they were accused of not enforcing the no swimming policy consistently.
You don’t have to be a marine insurance specialist to know that a multi-million dollar judgment could financially ruin a city or company. Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals absolved Harbor Master Barry Smith of responsibility in Knudsen’s death. This decision removes the city from liability, but questions about such a senseless death remain.
Does your marine electrical comply with state regulations? Does your marine business insurance offer sufficient liability coverage? Contact the marine insurance professionals at Global Marine Insurance to review your policies.