Nik Tritch remains hospitalized after suffering an electric shock Thursday night during a Sub T-16 pledging activity. Tritch, sophomore finance major from Clovis, Calif., is recovering, thanks to immediate action taken by Sub T-16 members, pledges and adviser Mike Breckenridge.
Breckenridge sells automated external defibrillators, AEDs, for Banyan International, but hoped he would never have to use the one he keeps in his truck.
“I realized that he wasn’t breathing; there wasn’t a pulse and something needed to be done immediately,” Breckenridge said.
He bolted for the truck while CPR-certified students performed chest compressions on Tritch.
“Honestly, I thought, ‘By the time I get back, he will be OK; he just passed out or something,'” Breckenridge said. “It was a low enough current that it didn’t shock him and throw him, but it grabbed him and held on.”
The students who pulled Tritch out of the water were shocked, but not injured. After removing his shirt and drying his chest, Breckenridge applied the AED patches, followed the device’s prompt to shock, and directed the students to continue chest compressions.
Paramedics arrived and shocked Tritch a second time. After they detected a pulse, they transported him to the hospital where Breckenridge said he continues to improve.
“[Tuesday] morning when I left, he was breathing on his own,” Breckenridge said. “He shook my hand and gave me a thumbs up.”
The university has yet to determine the exact cause of the shock. Kevin Roberts, associate vice president of operations, said the shock likely resulted from a voltage leak below a light pole. A circuit formed by standing water, waterlogged earth and water in the box schocked Tritch.
Roberts said Jay Wyatt, owner of Wyatt Electrical Services, inspected the site and all signs were “indicative of what could be a tiny pinhole in a piece of the insulation.”
Roberts and Wyatt attempted to recreate the event and estimated Tritch was struck by 69 to 80 volts of electricity. Diagnostics have shown no evidence of lightning or static electricity.
“We’ve determined there’s a low voltage leak there,” Roberts said. “We’re going to replace the whole junction, and we’re double-checking all the others.”
Thompson said the university’s first priority is safety – for everyone on the ACU campus – to support Tritch through a full recovery and support everyone who witnessed the tragic event.
“The club activity was sanctioned; it was supervised. It was all in the scope of what we were told they would do,” Thompson said. “It is so easy to speculate and assume things. As far as we know, this was a freak accident.”