Whether the state should act in response to the electric shock drowning deaths of two children on the Lake of the Ozarks last year has gotten its first round of debate in the legislature.
Representative Caleb Jones (R-Columbia) has proposed requiring that all docks with electricity have ground fault interrupters (GFIs) – devices to shut off power when there’s a short, and requiring that all Highway Patrol boats have defibrillators. Either of this things, he says, might have saved the lives of 13 year-old Alexandra Anderson and her eight-year-old brother Brayden of Ashland, who died after being shocked by power running to a dock they were swimming near on the Lake of the Ozarks.
During debate of those requirements in the House, some like Representative David Wood (R-Versailles) said the bill would be unenforceable.
“We have fire districts that cover part of the 1,300 miles of shoreline but we have a lot of shoreline that has no supervision whatsoever. You’re looking at 25-thousand different piece of property. Many of those already have docks on them,” said Wood.
Other representatives including Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) were passionate in saying they should become law.
“We heard comment that this would be a difficult situation to ensure on the holidays and whatever that these docks are safe. But You know what’s difficult? Planning funeral for your children and burying your children and never seeing your children again,” said Montecillo.
An amendment based on Jones’ bill was defeated, but he says the debate is not over.
“I think the big question is who is the regulator of these GFIs on docks and who is going to be tasked with checking every dock,” said Jones.
Jones said his bill would be the subject of a House committee hearing later this week in which some changes might be made and other issues fleshed out.
One lawmaker criticized a law that made Ameren immune to liability in the deaths of the Anderson children. Ameren owns and operates the Lake of the Ozarks.
A lawsuit filed by the Anderson family was dismissed because of that law. Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) said during debate, “When people ignore plain dangers and kids die we ought not let the laws of this state sweep those actions aside … our actions have consequences. Providing civil immunity to people who know something is wrong and do nothing to protect Missourians results in things like the deaths of these two children.”
The bill would not address that immunity law.