State inspectors have concluded that faulty wiring at a pump house led to the death of a Pasco teen while he was swimming in the Columbia River.
Cole R. Grad was shimmying across a concrete wall and wire fence surrounding the private irrigation facility on Aug. 10 when he touched an electrified pipe connected to the pump system.
The shock paralyzed the 15-year-old, and he went underwater.
A report from the state Department of Labor & Industries shows that a cable “went to ground,” energizing the outside case of the motor.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The faulty wiring made it so a breaker couldn’t be tripped to stop the electricity from flowing.
“Contact with any part of the motor, pump or suction line and any other grounded surface would most likely cause enough current flow to produce an electric shock,” the report said.
Inspectors noted that part of the pump had recently been worked on.
A department supervisor and lead inspector responded to the scene the following morning at the request of Franklin PUD officials. The investigation into Cole’s death was led by Pasco police detectives.
Angela and Jessie Grad said their son was enjoying the last days of summer as he prepared for his sophomore year at Chiawana High School.
Cole, who played football and baseball, was described as adventurous, happy and hardworking.
Cole and two friends had gone to the swimming spot south of Road 80 because they could use the wall to jump into a deeper part of the river.
After Cole fell into the river, his friends used one of their cellphones to call 911 at 8:24 p.m. An ambulance, fire engine and the Pasco Fire Rescue boat responded.
Two firefighters received electrical shocks while trying to get to Cole. A fire captain had to break into the pump house to shut off the service, then a Franklin PUD line crew cut the power at a nearby pole, de-energizing the area.
Cole was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. His death was determined to be the result of an electric shock drowning.
The teen’s heartbroken parents previously told the Herald they were thankful that Cole’s friends were not hurt when they tried to go into the water to find him.
The Labor & Industries inspector looked at the pump and service equipment and their installation.
“Even though the installation is quite old, the service equipment and service disconnects were operable and overcurrent protection was proper,” the report said. “Grounding electrode conductors were present both at the service and in the utility meterbase.”
The inspector noted that the structure, with exception to the galvanized pump suction line, was surrounded by a locked fence.
Razor wire encircled the top of the wire fence, including a protruding section of fencing, to keep people off the wall. Somehow the teens got around it.
While the underlying land is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, the pump house and its immediate surrounding land are private property. A 1952 warranty deed states that easements and rights-of-way for installation and maintenance of irrigation systems stay with the owners of a Road 80 home.
The current owners are Shirley and Ron George.
Shirley George, reached at the couple’s home, declined to comment on the investigation findings.
Reports from the investigation have been forwarded to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.
Prosecutor Shawn Sant said their review of those documents should be wrapped up shortly.
“It was sent to our office because it is a death, and so we are looking at it, but at this point it doesn’t look like there is any criminal implications from it,” he said. “… Honestly, it looks like this thing is civil.”
A GoFundMe account with a $20,000 goal was created to assist the family with funeral expenses. Donors have given $32,020.
The Grads said they were “humbled in the love” that the generous and kind donors have shown the family.
“Cole chose joy every single day of his life, and we will strive to do the same in his honor — even in the midst of our brokenness,” the family wrote.