Teen electrocuted while tubing on Puyallup River, family says in lawsuit

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TACOMA, Wash. — The family of an 18-year-old woman who died while inner-tubing on the Puyallup River says she was electrocuted, and has sued Puget Sound Energy for her death.

Madeline “Maddy” Roskie died in 2014, a couple of months after graduating from Bonney Lake High School, while she and her boyfriend were tubing on the river east of Puyallup, according to the complaint.

Her father, Earl Roskie, filed the wrongful death suit Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court, seeking unspecified damages.

After The News Tribune provided a copy of the suit to PSE, seeking comment, a spokeswoman said the company would not comment before it had been formally served.

The suit gives this account of Roskie’s death:

She and her boyfriend floated a section of the river near the 16100 block of 96th Street East on Aug. 2, and walked back to their starting point to do it again.

While they were in the water waiting for another group to go by, Roskie said her legs were going numb, and seconds later lost consciousness.

Her boyfriend got her out of the water, and bystanders started CPR and called 911, but she died soon after.

There were no signs of blunt trauma or drugs, alcohol or toxins in her system that would explain her death, and the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause undetermined.

Several weeks after she died, according to the suit, “the Pierce County Associate Medical Examiner contacted East Pierce Fire and Rescue to express his concern that ‘an electrical hazard in or near the water at that location may have caused this girl’s death.’”

The same day, PSE’s operations manager told the fire department the problem appeared to be an irrigation pipe going into the river, and that it would be fixed the next day.

In the meantime, East Pierce told emergency crews they should stay 50 feet away from any pipes going into the river in that area.

The pipe in question was attached to an irrigation pump on the west side of the river, and PSE reported finding a “280v to ground issue” at the pump, the suit states.

“An entity owning or maintaining strong electrical current wires has a duty to exercise the utmost care and prudence to prevent injury,” the suit says. “A malfunction in the distribution system that puts electric current into fresh water is an extremely hazardous condition.”

The Roskie family also is suing the owner or person who leases the pump and irrigation pipe, the owner of the land, the person responsible for maintaining the equipment and whoever benefits from the pump’s operation.

Until those people are identified, they are listed in the suit as John Does.

PSE has refused to say who owns the equipment, the suit alleges.

Roskie’s News Tribune obituary said she graduated Bonney Lake High School with honors, and planned to study at Pierce College and Central Washington University to become a trauma nurse.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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