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What officials are urging after Smith Mountain Lake freak accident that killed snowboard champion

'There was a lot of electricity in that water and to fix that, it was simple'
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Posted at 3:03 PM, Jul 10, 2024

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. --- Fire officials are recommending a device that can detect electricity in the water after a freak accident on Smith Mountain Lake killed an 18-year-old man on the Fourth of July.

Firefighters believe Jesse Hamric of Steamboat Springs, Colorado,was electrocuted by stray voltage in the lake early on Thursday, July 4, WDBJ reported.

There is evidence of stray voltages around other docks at the lake, according to Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire and Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Ray Talley. He said the electrical currents can spread from ground wires and enter the water through a boat lift.

“There was a lot of electricity in that water,” Talley said about the incident on the Fourth of July. “And to fix that, it was simple. We just took and raised the [boat] lift completely out of the water. And when we did, there was no more electricity in the water because there was no metal touching that water.”

As a result, Talley is urging folks to buy a device that can detect electricity in the water.

"If you can see the green lights, and we put this in the water, and those green lights continue to blink, then that means that there's no stray voltage in that water,” Talley explained. “So as we move it around in the water and get closer to a lift that's actually down in the water, a lift system that raises boats and jet skis, this thing could start detecting stray voltage."

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Talley said that if electricity is present, the problem needs to be fixed immediately.

The assistant fire chief said crews have been responding to electrical emergencies on the lake for "maybe three years.”

“To this date, I don’t think anyone has been electrocuted and the result of a fatality,” Talley said. “This is the first time.”

Hamric was remembered as a "courageous" leader, animal whisperer and snowboard champion who had an "extraordinary fearlessness and zest for life," according to his obituary.

"He loved his brother and sister, family, and his friends and teammates fiercely," his obituary reads. "There was no one on earth prouder of his big brother on the football field, or yelling louder for his sister in the halfpipe, or as relentless in encouraging his friends to land the back flip out in the trees, or loving as he coaxed his giant dog across a rock bridge. Everything about Jesse was big–his smile, his hugs, his energy, his courage, and most of all his insatiable need to love."

More than $104,000 have been raised for theJesse Cyrus Hamric Fund for Courage and Love. Click here to learn more or to make a donation.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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