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Boys Recovering From Severe Shock

June 1, 1993

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (AP) _ A man heard screams, than raced to his apartment complex swimming pool and found his two young sons wrapped around a light pole.

Their skin looked purple as an electrical surge held them in place Sunday. He grabbed for them and was thrown back by the power, finally shoving his arm through the bathing-suit leg hole of one son, then the other, and ripping them free without touching their skin.

Justin Varnum, 14, and Jared Varnum, 12, were unconscious when their father, Brad, pulled them from the pool-side pole. The boys were in serious condition Tuesday at Hollywood Memorial Hospital.

Varnum said the boys were playing catch in the pool with a tennis ball when the ball bounced away. Justin ran to get it and put his hand on the pole as he bent over to pick it up.

Justin’s hand froze tight on the pole and electricity pulled him toward it ″like a magnet,″ his father said. In an instant, much of Justin’s body was wrapped around the pole.

His brother tried to pull Justin free, Varnum said. Jared, too, became twisted around the pole. It took Varnum about five to seven minutes to free them.

″I’m really proud of my son, that he tried to help his older brother,″ Varnum said. ″It may not have been the best thing for him to do, but he was just so concerned about his brother.″

Firefighters and electrical inspectors were investigating the accident. A city inspector said the pole was improperly grounded.

An electric shock can freeze a person’s nerves so they can’t let go, said Roger Messenger, an electrical engineering professor at Florida Atlantic University.

″Those boys were very fortunate not to have been killed,″ Messenger said.

When a person can’t let go of the source of electricity, it is best to try to turn the electricity off, Messenger said. If that isn’t possible, use a nonconductive material such as a plastic pool cushion, PVC pipe or beach towel to pull or push victims away from the electrical source.