The North Carolina House of Representatives is considering a bill in response to the pool electrocution of a lifeguard.
In September, 2016, 17-year-old Rachel Rosoff was found face-down in a pool she had been preparing to open. In a lawsuit, the family states that the girl was shocked and rendered paralyzed before passing away.
“While Rachel was completely aware of her circumstances, she was unable to move her arms and legs, and was without any ability to save herself, and she consciously drowned,” the girl’s parents stated in their lawsuit filing.
According to a preliminary report by the Wake County Planning, Development and Inspections Department, this occurred after the pool’s pump motor failed and a corroded wire kept the circuit breakers from tripping. Because electrical inspections are only required when pools open, no official had seen the system where Rosoff died in 37 years.
This was the fourth known electrical incident to occur in a pool last year. Two were fatal.
Earlier this month, legislators introduced House Bill 598 in the hopes of preventing similar incidents in the future. Currently, ground-fault circuit interrupters are not required on public pools. With this bill, legislators hope to change that. It would amend the state’s General Statutes to say that, on public pools, the electrical circuit or receptacle that provides power to the pump motor must include a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Pool operators would have 90 days after the bill becomes law to ensure such protections are in place.
If the bill passes, it would charge the state with developing and enforcing rules to address electrical safety. These would pertain to the construction and operation of public pools, spas and other vessels.
Also this month, Rosoff’s parents filed suit against Williams Electric Motor Repair and Future Connections Electrical, accusing them of substandard work leading to the young woman’s death. In the suit, the plaintiffs said Williams Electric violated the National Electrical Code when it worked on the pool in 2011. By law, the plaintiffs said, the company should have replaced the wiring. They also accuse Williams Electric of failing to obtain a permit for the work or get an inspection, both required by law. Rosoff’s parents allege that Future Connections installed the wrong size capacitor in the pump motor, causing it to overheat and fail. “Future Connections also found safety hazards at the pool it should have reported but failed to do so,” they said in a press release.
The legal team for Rosoff’s parents includes Edwards Kirby, the law firm led by former senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, a renowned personal-injury attorney. He and partner David Kirby won a record jury award in 1996 for Valerie Lakey, a 5-year-old suction-entrapment victim who lost the majority of her intestines and whose father spearheaded the effort to pass North Carolina’s dual-drain law.