CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. – Police say a 9-year-old Northern California girl died Sunday afternoon after she was apparently electrocuted when a swimming pool light malfunctioned.
The girl died at a local hospital after efforts to revive her by adults and a Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District crew failed. Fire officials identified her as McKenzie Kinley, according to The Sacramento Bee.
“I just fell to my knees,” family friend Janie Perduta, whose daughter had a sleepover with McKenzie days earlier, told KCRA. “It was just as bad if would (she) have been my own granddaughter.”
Friends of the family described the 9-year-old as a "spitfire" who loved to put on a show and was beloved by those who knew her. McKenzie, who was set to start fifth grade next school year, was on the cheer team, played soccer and emcee'd the school talent show, KCRA reports.
Police say a light fixture in the pool was in the process of being repaired.
“The light actually sits inside the water and it is not sealed on the outside of the pool,” said Deon Nesson.
Nesson has operated All Clear Pool and Spa Supply in Elk Grove for 30 years. He said there’s a reason that ground wires for lighting fixtures are heavy gauge.
“That’s all interconnected to all the electrical of the pool and the actual rebar of the pool,” he explained.
But there is a weak spot where the light is connected to the fixture in the pool.
“It’s critical that these lights are always attached properly,” Nesson said. “The bottom pin should be inserted and have contact to the middle and the top screw should be inserted all the way.”
Nesson said when there is a short you can feel something as you approach the water.
“The first sign of any problem is a little tingle,” he told KTXL. “That would mean that you have a problem in that pool. Never touch that fixture, turn off all the power right away.”
Pools that are built or renovated to code have a circuit breaker but are also attached to a ground fault circuit interrupter, like the ones commonly found in bathroom sockets. They are also wired into pool lighting panels as added protection.
They should be checked every month or so.
The houses in the neighborhood of the accident were built in the late ‘50s. Neighbors told KTXL a lot of backyard pools were added on.
“If you’ve got a pool pre-1981 and you don’t know the condition of the electrical, you should have someone look at all the electrical, not just the pool light but also the pool pumps,” Nesson said.
Citrus Heights police are classifying the death as a tragic accident. They are still looking into how it happened but Nesson suspects that a series of circumstances had to occur at the same time for a death to occur.