The Houston Chronicle reports that two Houston-area electricians were sought by local police due to an incident which led to the death of a Richmond resident in September 2013.
Raul Hernandez, 27, was swimming with his family in the pool at the Hilton Houston Westchase at 9999 Westheimer (near Briarpark) on August 31. When the pool lights came on as darkness fell, some in the pool were scrambling to get out, complaining that they were feeling strong electric shocks. A child was having difficulty getting out of the deep end of the pool, and Hernandez dove in to help the child. After helping the child to safety, Hernandez was unable to get himself out of the pool, and subsequently suffered severe electric shocks. Bystanders at the pool were able to get Hernandez out of the water, but he went into cardiac arrest, according to Houston police on the scene. CPR was administered to Hernandez before he was taken to Memorial Hermann/Memorial City Hospital. After about a week in the hospital, Hernandez died on September 6 of complications resulting from electrocution. Police said that Hernandez was electrocuted by current caused by a short in the pool lights.
Officials believe that the swimmers were electrocuted due to “substandard” work on the pool lights done by electricians Jason Joseph Gorczyca, 35, and James Ray Pyle, 34. The two electricians stand accused of the criminally negligent homicide of Raul Hernandez, whose death has been ruled as an accidental electrocution.
An investigation by Houston police, Houston’s Public Works and Engineering Department and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation ultimately found that wiring to the pool lights lacked a ground fault circuit interrupter. Such a device would have cut off the current instantly in the event of a shock. Additionally, the pool proper bonding, police said. The lack of a ground fault circuit interrupter and proper bonding both qualify as violations of the National Electric Code.
The Hilton Houston Westchase had hired Brown Electric Inc. in June 2013 to replace the wiring and bonding for the pool. Pyle was the supervisor for the job, but did not obtain a permit for the work with the City of Houston.
Of course, the first concern of any family is the tragic—and unnecessary—loss of a loved one. Given the negligent actions on the part of the electricians, and possibly even on the part of the hotel, the family may be entitled to restitution. Legal action may also force the accused perpetrators to make sure that such a circumstance never arises again in the future.