Child dies from touching the family RV



By Chuck Woodbury
Chuck (at)

Please answer our poll below: Have you ever been shocked by touching an RV? (Voting is closed.)

(UPDATE, MAY 12, 2017) — I wrote this article three years ago in response to the death of a 3-year-old boy, who was electrocuted by simply touching his family’s Airstream trailer. The trailer was experiencing what is known as a “hot skin” condition. It can happen to any of us, and does, in fact, happen much too often (most often the shock does not kill). I urge you to read this story. Being aware of what causes this potentially lethal condition could save your life or the life of someone you love. Here is my story, slightly edited, from three years ago.

Child dies from touching the family RVWe reported earlier this month about the death of 3-year-old Landyn Gerald Keener, who was electrocuted when he touched his family’s Airstream trailer in Amboy, Ill., when it was experiencing a “hot skin” condition. After hearing the news, our technical editor [at the time] Chris Dougherty [now the technical editor for Trailer Life and Motorhome magazines] interviewed electrical engineer Mike Sokol about how such a tragedy could occur and how other RVers can avoid becoming a victim. Watch that interview on our RV Travel Channel.

Here’s a story by Chris about this incident.

The fact is, a hot skin condition can occur on any RV, new or old. In a nutshell, it’s caused when an RV is plugged into an improperly wired electric plug or cord. In most cases, the only harm that will come to touching an affected RV is receiving a mild shock. But under certain circumstances the shock can be deadly. Here is a news story about the accident that took the life of young Landyn.

Our contributor and RV electric expert Mike Sokol received the following letter after my editorial appeared:

Dear Mike,
Child dies from touching the family RV
Fluke tester. It can be a lifesaver!

I came across your tutorial on “hot skin” conditions at At first I discounted the idea that this could be a frequent enough occurrence to worry about, but the kid who got electrocuted really bothered me. So, I went and bought the Fluke tester to see if the extension cord I was using out of my garage was a problem. Sure enough, when I plugged the RV in as I usually do it came out with a hot skin condition. I was quite surprised, but all the red flags were there in retrospect. And here I was letting my kid play in the unit while it was plugged in at home, and I was going in and out, all of us oblivious to the potential danger.

Without you calling attention to this phenomenon I never would have known about it. I doubt the groups I camp with know much about it either, but I will be sure to spread the word. We will never know what would have happened to one of us if I had not found this condition, but I can certainly say that you alleviated a problem and possibly saved someone from serious injury or death. So I wanted to send you a note of sincere gratitude for disseminating this information. —Andre Beverly
##RVT793; RV123-5-2017

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Ken palmour

Back in my early days of R V travels. I bought a converted mail truck that would shock me every time I opened the door. My fix was to put a large rubber mat at the front door. This worked well until I opened the door in the rain one day. I could not find the problem so I sold it before it killed me.
Hope someone fixed it.


The most shocking thing about most rv’s is how shoddily they are built.

Rudy G.

This condition happened to me in 1980 at a campground in San Felipe ,MX. As I recall,the receptacle had onLy 2 slots and no ground wire slot.My pigtail had the 3 prongs so I put on a 2 prong adapter and filed down the larger prong to fit the receptacle on the pedestal.

Result was hot skin on the trailer. A fellow camper told me to reverse the plug and the problem was solved.

Obviously the wiring on the pedestal was faulty. Back then there were many places with bad wiring as I observed a man sawing ironwood in Keno Bay. Evidently the switch had gone bad and his solution was to cut one of the wires and form a hook on each end. To start the saw he hooked the two wires together and unhooked them to stop. Very unsafe but did the job of a switch!

Bob C.

Never shocked in 25 years of RVing.

Mike Sokol

While it’s true that a NCVT can’t detect DC voltages, there are typically no direct current power sources available at pedestals or home outlets to power an RV. The DC voltage you may be talking about is probably from solar panels on the RV itself. Those panels are generally 12 or 24 volts DC, which is far too low to cause a shock hazard. If that’s the case, it’s a closed system on the RV which is similar to an on-board generator, so no ground rod is required. However, if you’re running a high-voltage solar cell bank on a separate structure and feeding it to the RV somehow, then that system itself should be earth grounded.

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We should also be aware that testers like the Fluke are measuring ALTERNATING CURRENT being radiated from the voltage source (A/C power). The sensor design is unable to detect a DIRECT CURRENT power source. Fortunately for most RVers, hopefully a moderate number of panels in series, or a bank of batteries would not be fatal if miswired or damaged. For those looking for an extra measure of protection, consider using a ground stake (metallic tent peg, etc) that is driven into the ground, with a wire between the stake and a metallic structure on your RV body or chassis.