The company that manages a pool where a teenage lifeguard was electrocuted last summer likely did not know about a faulty underground wire that caused her death, the state Department of Labor said Wednesday.
The state found “potential violations” of safety standards at the Heritage Point subdivision pool in northern Wake County, according to the department. But it will not issue fines to Aqua Management Group, although the state is recommending some safety changes.
Rachel Rosoff, a 17-year-old senior at Enloe High School, was shocked and drowned Sept. 3 while working as a lifeguard at the pool. The water was electrified when a pump motor stopped working properly and a corroded wire prevented the flow of electricity that would have tripped the circuit breaker, according to investigators.
During its investigation, the labor department’s Occupational Safety and Health division identified a faulty wire 18 inches below ground that was not visible, said Jason Tyson, a department spokesman.
“None of what (inspectors) found exceeded the Occupational Safety and Health standards,” Tyson said. “We have to establish employer knowledge to issue a citation. We couldn’t corroborate whether the employer had knowledge of (the wire) at the time.”
Rosoff’s family is represented by attorneys from the Edwards Kirby law firm and Adam Neijna in Raleigh. Neijna said the team is still investigating and pursuing legal action.
“This has been a horrible tragedy. This could have and should have been prevented,” Neijna said on behalf of the family. “And it is important for us to hold those responsible accountable, but also to make sure this never happens again.”
Neijna declined to comment on the labor department’s findings.
Wake regularly inspects its 1,165 pools, but the inspections do not include electrical systems or wires. Inspectors check for several safety factors, including chemical levels.
The Heritage Point pool was inspected three times for health and safety in 2016 without issues, a Wake spokeswoman said in September.
The pool was built in 1979, according to the inspections department report, and it complied at the time with the 1978 National Electrical Code.
New pools must pass an initial county inspection, but Wake doesn’t inspect them again unless a new permit is issued, such as for major renovations.
In 2011, workers did not get a permit when they relocated an electrical feed at the pool above ground, according to a report. Such work requires an electrical permit from the county.
The state is recommending that Aqua Management Group “conduct a periodic electrical inspection to ensure the effectiveness and overall safety of all electrical equipment and connections.”
“It was also recommended that periodic inspections be conducted – at a minimum – at the start of each pool season and whenever electrical repairs or additions are performed on electrical components that are associated with the pool or pool equipment,” the state said in a news release.
Rep. Mitchell S. Setzer, a Catawba County Republican, filed a bill in the N.C. House on Wednesday that would require pool operators to install ground-fault circuit-interrupter protections on electrical circuits providing power to the swimming pool pump motor.
A circuit interrupter is a safety device that cuts off power if it detects electricity flowing in an abnormal way.
Neijna said he was not sure whether the Rosoff family had been contacted by Setzer. But he said the family welcomes the opportunity for legislation that increases pool safety. He also said legislators may want to consider strengthening the bill by requiring an annual examination of pool wiring.
“We are incredibly grateful of Representative Setzer and the General Assembly in looking into the tragedy of Rachel’s death,” Neijna said. “However, we believe that annual inspections of electrical inspections are prudent and warranted and should be considered by the Assembly.”
Setzer did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.