MARION COUNTY, TX (08/05/2017) — Two teenage boys were killed, and another was seriously injured, after their sailboat’s mast struck a power line over Lake O’ The Pines in east Texas on Saturday.
UPDATE 08/07/2017: We’re sad to report that the 3rd victim, 11-year-old Thomas Larry, has died from injuries suffered in Saturday’s tragic accident on Lake O’ the Pines. The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.
According to reports, the accident occurred as two Eagle Scouts were mentoring an 11-year-old Boy Scout troop member on how to sail in the Alley Creek alcove of Lake O’ The Pines. The boat’s 30-foot mast apparently came in contact with a power line running over the lake shortly afterward, resulting in a powerful electrical surge which caused the Hobie catamaran to catch fire.
A troop leader from Boy Scout Troop 620 (of Hallsville) quickly paddled out to the scene only to discover that both Eagle Scouts (identified as 17-year-old Will Brannon and 16-year-old Heath Faucheux) had died. The 11-year-old boy scout, identified by friends and family as Thomas Larry, was discovered unconscious in the water.
Good Samaritans helped pull Thomas into their boat while the Scout leader performed CPR before game wardens arrived at about 2:00 p.m. Thomas was later transported via air ambulance to LSU Medical Center-Shreveport in critical condition.
This situation is beyond belief, and our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragic event.
While the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s boating accident reconstruction and mapping team continues to investigate, the circumstances surrounding this accident have left many with some serious questions. Why was the power line hanging so low? Why was there a power line over the lake to begin with?
According to The National Electric Safety Code (NSEC) published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), regulations on power lines and authorized clearance are graded by the size of the waterway. Lake O’ the Pines is 18,680 acres. The minimum allowable clearance above a waterway over 2,000 acres—in areas suitable for sailboating—is 37 feet and 6 inches; far higher than the 26.5′ catamaran’s mast. This is the absolute minimum clearance required for insulated wires, and non-insulated power lines require even more clearance.
Additionally, a 1997 regulation from the Corps of Engineers covering electric power supply lines and communication lines over reservoirs states that overhead power lines are required to have a minimum vertical clearance of 52 feet where sailboats are commonly operated.
While nothing can undo the harm that has already been caused, my hope is that a thorough investigation is conducted in order to determine exactly what led to led to this electrocution accident, and that fundamental changes are made to ensure that nothing like this is allowed to occur again in the future.
Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative, the company which owns the line, says it is cooperating with the investigation. We will continue to provide updates to this story as more information is released.