While Madeline "Maddy" Roskie was floating down the river with her boyfriend, her legs went numb, then within seconds she fell unconscious, a lawsuit alleges.
Madeline Roskie was 18 and set to go off to college in the fall when she went inner-tubing with her boyfriend on a hot August day three years ago.
By the end of the day the healthy honor student was dead, the victim of a silent, invisible killer, according to a lawsuit filed by her father, Earl Roskie.
Roskie’s suit alleges that his daughter was electrocuted by an ungrounded irrigation pipe or pump in the Puyallup River and is seeking unspecified damages from Puget Sound Energy and several as-yet unnamed defendants.
Madeline “Maddy” Roskie was floating at the edge of the river in her inner tube when she suddenly felt her legs go numb, then fell unconscious and died, according to the suit filed earlier this month in Pierce County Superior Court.
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Attorneys for the Roskie family say that although Maddy did not drown, they believe she was a victim of the phenomenon called Electric Shock Drowning, which they claim is a surprisingly common, and yet little known, freshwater hazard.
According to the suit, Roskie went inner-tubing in the river near the 96th Street Bridge east of Tacoma on Aug. 2, 2014.
She and her boyfriend took an initial run down the section of river and then walked back upstream to go again, the suit claims.
“While they were waiting in their tubes for another group to pass, Maddy complained that her legs were going numb. Within seconds, she became unconscious,” the suit claims.
Her boyfriend, who also experienced tingling in his fingers, floated her to shore, where CPR was started and help was called.
“Maddy Roskie was pronounced dead shortly after emergency personnel arrived. She had not experienced any blunt trauma, did not drown, and had no drugs, alcohol or toxins in her system to account for her death,” the suit alleges, adding that she was wearing a life jacket.
On Aug. 22, a Puget Sound Energy technician found that the source of the problem appeared to be an irrigation pump going into the river on a property adjacent to where Maddy died, according to the suit.
Three days later, a Pierce County associate medical examiner contacted East Pierce Fire and Rescue to express his concern that “an electrical hazard in or near the water at that location may have caused this girl’s death,” the suit claims.
The associate medical examiner had arrived at the possible explanation after eliminating other potential causes of death, according to one of Roskie’s attorneys, Kathy Goater.
That same day an operations manager from Puget Sound Energy told East Pierce Fire and Rescue that the problem had been found in an irrigation pipe and it was scheduled for repair the following day, on Aug. 26.
According to Roskie’s attorneys, PSE has not disclosed information about the pump, so the suit also lists as defendants the as-yet unidentified person or entity that owned or leased the pump and irrigation pipe, the owner of the land, the person responsible for maintaining the equipment and whoever benefits from the pump’s operation.
“An entity owning or maintaining strong electrical current wires has a duty to exercise the utmost care and prudence to prevent injury,” the suit says. “A malfunction in the distribution system that puts electric current into fresh water is an extremely hazardous condition.”
PSE did not immediately return a call seeking comment.