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Couple Planning to Wed Shocked Fatally in College Fountain

July 29, 1986

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ The electrocutions of a couple in an outdoor fountain on the Huntington College campus resulted from frayed electrical wiring and a faulty grounding system, the coroner says.

Huntington County Coroner Gregory K. Sprinkle said Monday night that the deaths of Russell Lee Showen, 26, of Marion, and his fiancee, Carol A. Escher, 27, of Fort Wayne, were accidental.

Their bodies were found in the fountain Sunday evening by a 5-year old boy.

The boy’s mother called state police and a trooper was shocked when he tried to retrieve the bodies.

Showen, a Kendallville native, was a 1982 graduate of Marion College who was entering his second year as an Indiana University medical student. He was spending the summer in Marion while working in a medical training program at Marion General Hospital.

The couple got their marriage license last Friday in Fort Wayne and planned to wed Aug. 16, the day after Ms. Escher was to receive a master’s degree in speech therapy from Ball State University, relatives said.

Neither had ever been students at Huntington College, said Greg L. Hoover, its public relations officer.

Sprinkle said the couple apparently stopped at the fountain for a rest break. The fountain is encircled by a pool of water about 20 feet in diameter.

Showen sat facing away from the fountain. Ms. Escher had taken her sandals off and rolled up the right leg of her slacks, Sprinkle said.

As she put her right leg in the pool, she reached for Showen’s shoulder, probably to balance herself. When her foot hit the water both fell in the water and were electrocuted.

The problems in the electrical system were determined Monday by Joe Shaffer, a Fort Wayne electrician Sprinkle hired on the advice of state police.

Frayed wiring where a 110-volt power cord entered a sealing connector on the fountain motor pump caused the water in the pool to become electrified, the coroner said.

Inadequate grounding of the motor failed to cause the overcircuit device to operate, Sprinkle said Shaffer told him.

The wire probably had deteriorated from old age, Sprinkle said. The pool was built by the college’s class of 1963.

Trooper Roger Popplewell was wearing shorts and tennis shoes when he jumped in the pool to try to retrieve the couple. He received an electrical shock and got out. ″I think the fact he had tennis shoes on was the only thing that saved his life,″ Sprinkle said.