A retrospective review of fatal electrocution cases at Tygerberg Forensic Pathology Services, Cape Town, South Africa, over the 5-year period 1 January 2008 - 31 December 2012

  • S von Caues
  • C.I. Herbst
  • S.A. Wadee


Background. Electrocution as a cause of death has been discussed extensively in the international literature. However, research on this topic in South Africa (SA) is scarce.

Objectives. To address the need for further research in this field and emphasise the necessity for preventive measures by determining the demographic and pathological profile of fatal electrocution cases seen in the Tygerberg Forensic Pathology Services, Western Cape Province, SA.

Methods. The study was a retrospective and descriptive case series of all the cases of death secondary to electrocution referred to the study facility from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012.

Results. A total of 39 cases were included. Ten victims (25.6%) were aged <13 years. The geographical area most affected by electrocution deaths was the informal settlement Khayelitsha (56.4% of cases). The primary injuries described were mainly burn wounds (34 cases, 87.2%) and abrasions (4 cases, 10.3%). Most injuries were to the upper limbs. Unfortunately, the results pertaining specifically to the pathology of electrical burn wounds were inconclusive.

Conclusions. In view of discrepancies found in the reporting of electrical burn wounds, a standardised system for classifying these wounds is suggested. Although electrocution-related mortality is not a leading cause of death in high-prevalence areas, awareness should be raised.


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eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135