Officials: Homes along water should be inspected for electrical shorts

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Officials are urging homeowners to take precautions after an 11-year-old girl was electrocuted over the weekend while swimming in a lagoon.

Kayla Matos, of Newark, was electrocuted by a charged boat lift while swimming in a lagoon behind a Toms River home. Officials say that the township issued a permit for the lift in 2001, but when new homeowners moved in in 2004, the lift was no longer used.

“Water is a conductor, especially salt water,” says electrical contractor Joe Nardini. “The more salt you add, the more conductive it is.”

Nardini says that corrosion can cause electrical shorts in the circuit, allowing the dock, boat lift and even the water to become charged. Authorities say that this was the case in Matos’ death.

Superstorm Sandy left much of Toms River under water five years ago. Nardini says that it only takes a couple hours of being submerged to cause serious corrosion to wires and electrical boxes.

Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher calls the tragedy a horrible accident. He says that homeowners, particularly those who live near the water, should check their homes for possible dangers.

“If you have a boat lift and it's in the water, just check out the electrical connections to make sure no shorts are putting energy into that frame,” the mayor says.

Experts say that inspections should be done by state-licensed electrical contractors every few years. If a boat lift goes unused, they say that there are simply no warning signs of a problem.

The Electric Shock Drowning Association says people should not swim around docks, marinas or boatyards. The organization urges owners to install "no swimming" signs in those areas.

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