Ice Bucket Challenge Ends in Serious Injuries

By Kim Smiley

In a terrible reminder that awful things can happen at any time, two firefighters were seriously injured helping the Campbellsville University’s marching band raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research by participating in the trendy ice bucket challenge.  If you ever log onto Facebook, you are probably already familiar with the concept behind the ice bucket challenge, but in case you are not a social media fan, the idea behind the ice bucket challenge is that friends tag each other to either donate $100 to an ALS-related charity  or dump a bucket of ice water over their head.  If you choose the ice bucket, you are supposed to take a video or photo as evidence and post it online.

Trying to create an entertaining video of the ice bucket dumping is part of the fun for many of the participants.  In order to make a memorable video to post on social media, the firefighters that were injured used a fire truck ladder to dump ice water on the band from above.  While on the ladder, the firefighters were near high voltage power lines (although they never actually touched the lines) and electricity arced out, injuring four firefighters.  Two firefighters were treated and released, but two were still hospitalized days later.  One was listed as stable, but the other was in critical condition.

This accident clearly illustrates that high voltage can be extremely dangerous even if you don’t touch the equipment. An arc flash can occur when a flashover of electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another or to the ground.  The closer a person is when an arc happens, the more dangerous it is.  Arcs are exceptionally hot and can cause very serious injuries and even death from several feet away when high voltage is in use.

The Public Service Commission stated that they will investigate the location to ensure that the power line had the correct clearance from the ground, trees and structures, but initial reports do not indicate any problems with the power poles.  Possible solutions that could be used to reduce the risk of a similar problem in the future are increased education on the risks of high voltage and ensuring that adequate warning signs are in place.

These have been the most dramatic injuries associated with the ice bucket challenge, but there are a slew of videos featuring buckets dropped on heads, slips and a variety of other unintended outcomes that look painful.  If you are considering doing the ice bucket challenge, please remember that a gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds.  A five gallon bucket filled with water is pretty heavy.  Think the plan through carefully before you ask somebody to dump water on you off a balcony because it may end badly.