Noah Winstead, the 10-year-old son of Todd and Jessica Winstead of Morristown, died on the afternoon of July 4, 2012, from the initial shock.
His 11-year-old friend, Nate Lynam, died the following day after being placed on life support at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville.
Lynam’s brother and sister were also shocked, and the sister was hospitalized overnight.
Each set of parents filed lawsuits on June 28 in Grainger County Circuit Court against James Figuerado of Fort Meyers, Fla.
Figuerado owns the German Creek Resort and German Creek Marina, where the accident took place.
According to a report filed by Grainger County Sheriff Scott Layel, investigators ruled out any problems with the electrical meter at the dock. Frayed wiring was found aboard the houseboat floating beside the boys when they were shocked, Layel said.
According to a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency report, the boys were swimming between two boats around 2:20 p.m. They were shocked as they played near a metal ladder on one of the boats.
Rogersville attorney Mark Stapleton, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lynam’s parents, told the Times-News on Tuesday that the marina, which is the supplier of electricity to the boats, is liable for failing to take certain safety precautions.
“The common standard in the industry is for the power supplier, in this case the boat dock, to have what commonly is called a ‘ground fault circuit interrupter,’ so if there is any electrical leakage, the power shuts down altogether,” Stapleton said. “It’s commonly understood that a lot of these houseboats will leak electricity into the water. It would be incumbent upon the boat dock, knowing that kids are going to be in the water playing, to protect them from the potential for electricity leaking from boats.”
Stapleton noted that the marina store sold inflatable water toys and floats.
“They’re inviting activity in the water but doing nothing to stop a potential electrical leakage,” he added.
Following the deaths of the boys, the marina replaced all wiring on the docks and installed ground fault circuit interrupter devices, Stapleton said.
The lawsuits allege that the Winstead and Lyman families had no knowledge of any potential dangers in the water that was in and around German Creek Marina.
The lawsuit alleges several counts of negligence on the part of the marina including:
•By failing to warn plaintiffs and others of the hazards and dangers which were present and/or could be present in and around German Creek Marina, LLC on or about July 4, 2012;
•By failing to install ground fault circuit interrupter devices on the pedestals or other electrical hookups in order to prevent the accidental electric shock to individuals who might be in the water in and around the marina.
•By failing to have the appropriate safety devices and rescue equipment in and around the marina and resort for emergency situations.
•By failing to have any kind of safety management program in place for the mass number of boats and persons associated with those boats at the resort and marina.
•By failing to properly wire and or otherwise correctly electrically configure the wiring at the marina and resort.
The lawsuit further alleges that, “Defendants knew or should have known that they chose to take no action to warn the public and subsequently failed to warn the plaintiffs of this danger in the water.”
Kingsport attorney Jimmie Miller and Morristown attorney Braxton Terry filed jointly on behalf of Winstead’s parents, who are divorced.
The Times-News was unable to contact defense attorney Frank Vettori for a response to the lawsuit.