Family Pushes "Michael Cunningham Act" After Son's Death - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Family Pushes "Michael Cunningham Act" After Son's Death

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Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start to summer. Families across the country celebrate by hosting picnics, heading to pool parties, or relaxing in the sun.

Memorial Day 2010 started out normal for the Cunningham family. It ended differently when Michael Cunningham, then 15, was fatally electrocuted.

"Memorial Day Weekend 2010, Michael planned a trip with his best friend for her 16th birthday. Her dad was taking them out on a house boat," said Kevin Cunningham, Michael's father.

Kevin Cunningham was with his son Ben at a race in Ohio for the holiday.

Michael spent the morning with his mom at a band performance, and a went on a few shopping errands before heading to Stonewall Jackson Lake with a friend.

"The worst thing I thought would happen that day was he would get sunburned. So I remember, on the way out the driveway I said make sure you wear your sunscreen. Make sure he wears his screen," said Amy Cunningham, Michael's mother.

Both parents received a call that would change their life forever.

"We got the call something bad had happened," Kevin Cunningham said.

"I just collapsed and handed the phone to my brother. You just can't prepare yourself for the ambulances, state police and flashing lights," Amy Cunningham said.

"We got there and they explained to me that Michael had been electrocuted. And I just couldn't understand that myself. I didn't even realize that electric was around water," Kevin Cunningham said.

Michael was the victim of Electric Shock Drowning.

"The wiring. It got wired wrong. When the person plugged it in, it energized the whole boat. And when Michael touched the ladder to get out it just immediately shocked him," Amy Cunningham said.

"We found out the hard way what ESD is Electric Shock Drowning," Kevin Cunningham said.

The Cunninghams didn't know what ESD was until it took the life of their teenage son.

"I've come to be very familiar with it. I never heard of it before and I don't think a lot of people have heard of it," Amy Cunningham said.

Every day is still a painful one, as the only way they can look at their son is through old pictures and cherished memories.

But the family has put its energy toward keeping Michael's name alive.

"From the time it happened, I decided we needed to keep this, keep this from happening to others," Kevin Cunningham said.

The family reached out to legislators hoping they'd support the Michael Cunningham Act.

"I was the lead sponsor along with several other delegates at the request of the Cunningham family," said Delegate Tim Miley (D) Harrison County.

The bill looks to prevent incidents like Michael's.

"Number 1, keep kids from swimming around marinas and boat docks with electric around them, and number 2 to get the GFCIs that the electric would be cut off if there was a fault," Kevin Cunningham said.

"They are required to have the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters and they are required to be inspected every year by the Department of Natural Resources," Delegate Miley said.

The family said GFCIs are required in homes and it believes it should be required near marinas too.

The bill passed in the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. It now goes to the House Financial Committee and eventually could end up in the Senate. If it passes, the bill could go into effect as early as August 1, 2014.

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