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National push for "Noah Dean and Nate" marina safety law

Tennessee's new marina safety law takes effect January 2015, but it's already getting attention from other states.
Marina at Cherokee Lake where Noah Winstead and Nate Lynam were electrocuted in July 2012.

(WBIR - Grainger County) A new marina safety law in Tennessee named for two electrocuted boys could potentially make an impact across the nation.

Labor Day at Cherokee Lake is no holiday for Jessica Winstead of Morristown. Especially when across the water she can clearly see the marina where her son and his best friend swam into a fatal electrical current on July 4, 2012.

"Noah loved it out here where we would play and camp and look across at the marina. We never knew he was looking at where he would die," said Winstead.

Noah Dean Winstead, 10, and Nate Lynam, 11, were electrocuted while swimming at the marina. The shock coursed through the boys uninterrupted from frayed wiring on a boat that was fed constant power from the dock of the marina.

"He [Noah] was more than 'that boy that got electrocuted and drowned.' There was so much more spirit to him," said Winstead.

This year Winstead set out on a legislative mission and successfully convinced Tennessee lawmakers to approve a new marina safety law. The "Noah Dean and Nate" law takes effect January 2015. It requires annual inspections of electrical equipment at marinas, improved signage to warn about the risk of electric shock, and updated electrical equipment with ground fault circuit interrupter (GCFI) protection.

GCFI is essentially a breaker that automatically shuts off the power when too much electricity is in the water. It's the same basic technology that residential building codes have required for many years with bathroom electrical outlets. The reason is simple: because electrical devices and water (in a bathroom or a marina) can mix with deadly results.

Related Story: June 2014 - Governor Haslam signs Noah Dean and Nate bill into law

Had there been ground fault protections at the marina, Winstead says her son and his best friend would be alive today.

"It was just a smack in the face for me that common sense measures could have prevented this. I was so thrilled that Tennessee passed this measure."

With the bill signed by the governor and the mission seemingly accomplished, Winstead recently received word that Noah and Nate could potentially make an even larger impact than expected. It may set the standard for similar legislation far away from Tennessee.

"Our sponsoring senator, Steve Southerland, recently attended a National Legislators Conference. He said this bill had gotten attention from other legislators across the country and several are wanting to see about this getting adopted. Of course, it's not federal and it would be up to each state to adopt it," said Winstead.

With every headline across the country of someone dying from an electric shock at a boat dock, boat lift, or marina, the news hits Winstead every time. Often those involved in other tragedies will contact her via Facebook.

"Just last week, there was a girl who was killed in Louisiana. I know what her family is going through. It is terrible grief," said Winstead. "If this law can be used as a model for other states, I would be thrilled. It feels good to know we did something that can impact the nation. We can save lives and we can educate people and that's the biggest thing right now."

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