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Family warns of electric shock drowning after girl, 9, dies in pool accident

McKenzie Kinley's parents are warning others about the dangers of electric shock drowning after she was electrocuted by a pool light that needed repair.
/ Source: TODAY

A 9-year-old girl died Sunday in a tragic accident in her family’s pool.

McKenzie Kinley was swimming at her father’s house in Citrus Heights, California, when she was electrocuted by a wire attached to an underwater pool light that was under repair, NBC affiliate KCRA in Sacramento reported.

First responders attempted to save McKenzie, but it was too late, her father, Cliff Kinley, said in an interview with CBS Sacramento.

Friends and family called McKenzie Kinley a "spitfire" who was loved by everyone who knew her. Courtesy of Elizabeth Moore

There were four other children in the pool at the time of the accident, including McKenzie’s younger sister and three friends, but they were not harmed.

Family and friends describe McKenzie as a “spitfire” who was always active, and loved being outdoors.

“Swimming, fishing, camping made her happy. That’s what her life was about,” her dad told CBS Sacramento.

“She was just so kind and loving and she could be friends with anyone that she met no matter what,” one school friend said. Courtesy of Elizabeth Moore

The rising 5th-grader was also a cheerleader, played soccer and was the emcee for her school’s talent show.

Her classmates remember her as a kind and thoughtful friend.

“She was just so kind and loving and she could be friends with anyone that she met no matter what,” friend Aaron Hernandez, 12, told KCRA. “No matter what their differences were. She would always find a way for them to be friends.”

NBC News reached out to the family but didn't receive a response.

Many people are unaware of the risks of electric shock drowning. It can occur when electricity from a boat, dock, or marina — or a pool light, in this most recent case — seeps into the water, according to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association (ESDPA). Swimmers’ muscles are paralyzed by the electricity, and they drown.

Electric shock drowning often happens around docks and marinas, when electricity from boats and other power sources trickles into the nearby water.

There’s no official database of how many people have died from an electric shock drowning, because these deaths are often recorded as common drownings.

However, the ESDPA estimates that “hundreds” of injuries and deaths have been caused by this “silent killer.”

There have been several documented tragedies in recent years. In 2017, two women died from ESD while swimming near a dock in Lake Tuscaloosa, Alabama. And in 2016, a 15-year-old girl died from ESD while swimming near a family dock in Smith Lake, Alabama.

The ESDPA offers tips on their website for preventing electric shock drowning. They warn people to never swim in or around docks, marinas or boats using electricity. If you feel "tingly" while swimming in a lake or pool, get out immediately and turn off any source of electricity that could be seeping into the water.

Also, if you witness someone being affected by electricity in the water, throw them a life buoy or try to remove them from the water with a non-conductive pole, the ESDPA recommends. Don’t try to pull them closer to the dock, and don’t jump in to save them, as you could also be electrocuted.

McKenzie’s family said they are speaking out to educate others about the dangers of electric shock drowning, so that others might be spared this kind of tragedy.

"You never think this is going to happen," family friend Janie Perduta told KCRA. "It's so tragic. She shouldn't have been taken from us so soon."