Investigation into electrical shock injury of 6-year-old girl at MGM National Harbor suggests improperly installed LED driver on metal hand railing was cause
Evidence is pointing to an improperly installed LED driver as the cause of the electrical shock that a 6-year-old girl suffered when she touched a lighted hand rail at an outdoor fountain at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill in Prince George’s County, Maryland, in June 2018.
The girl, Zynae Green, had touched one hand rail with her hands and touched another with her feet, at which point she was shocked with 120 volts of electricity. It’s been reported that, had the LED driver worked properly, 12 volts is the most that Zynae or anyone else would have been exposed to.
Subsequently, Zynae went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Near the end of October, she was still hospitalized.
Equally, or even more egregious than an electrocution, this tragic situation is the worst imaginable from my perspective as an electrocution lawyer:
A young child suffered a serious electrical shock injury that could have and should have easily been avoided.
Regardless of how exactly factors such as negligent design, installation, maintenance, and/or inspection may have combined to contribute to Zynae’s injuries, the fact of the matter is that someone, somehow improperly installed the LED driver that failed to protect this innocent, young girl, there was a failure to provide proper grounding, safety devices, and ground fault protection, and no one timely detected and repaired the hazards.
Significantly, the Washington Post has reported:
- “[A]n independent engineer hired by the county released a report describing the wiring feeding the lighted handrail where the girl was injured in June as ‘terrible’ and some of the ‘sloppiest work’ he has ever seen.”
- “The engineer’s findings confirmed a preliminary assessment obtained by The Washington Post that showed powering for the lights on the metal handrail was improperly installed and used the wrong type of wiring and that the railing was installed at a shallow depth, leading to movements that frayed protective coatings and brought bared wiring into contact with the metal railing.”
- “A mechanism known as an LED driver — designed to step down 120 volts to 12 volts for the lighting on the underside of the handrail — likely failed two days before the girl swung on the handrail, the independent report found. The girl was shocked with 120 volts — 10 times the amount that should have been flowing to the lights on the railing.”
News reports indicate that the authorities who are investigating what exactly happened and who should be held accountable have brought in the FBI to look into possible criminal wrongdoing.
As frequently happens when an electrocution or shock injury strikes, everyone involved starts pointing fingers. Already we’re seeing people blaming the contractor for poor electrical work and blaming the county’s third-party inspector system for missing code violations and, overall, doing a bad job of inspecting.
While these are important leads that investigators must run down, their investigation – both for the purposes of providing health care, compensation, closure, and accountability to Zynae’s family and protecting the community – should start with the installer of that specific LED driver, the contractor who hired the installer, the electrical subcontractor, the general contractor, the property owner (MGM), and the specific inspector who approved the shoddy and nearly deadly work.
Preliminary assessment of improperly installed LED driver
The Washington Post reported that, according to the preliminary assessment it had obtained, Zynae Green’s electrical shock injuries were caused by the improper installation of the wiring and the railing and a failure in the permit/inspection process:
- An LED driver used to convert electricity into smaller units failed “as a result of major issues with installation and permitting approval.” Four drivers were grouped in a single box so close together it inhibited airflow and posed a risk of overheating, melting and failure that should “have never passed inspection.”
- “The “wrong type of electrical wiring was used to power the lights.” Rather than the wiring specified by the manufacturer of the LED lights, communications wiring that is used for items including voice, data and audio transfers was employed. That errant wiring was then buried directly into the ground, rather than encased and protected within code compliant conduit designed for the subterranean installation of electrical raceways, located at a proper depth, and protected by pebbles, sand, and/or “grits”.
- The insulation on the outside of the wiring wore away, exposing copper conductors that made contact with the handrail and sent electrical current to the LED driver, causing the mechanism controlling voltage to the railing to fail and allow 120 volts to flow.
- The handrail the girl touched was loose because it was also buried at an improper depth, and lacked adequate securement.