Tragedy struck a South Carolina beach community this week when a woman died in a freak accident.
Tammy Perreault, 63, of Surfside Beach, was impaled by a flying beach umbrella in Garden City, Horry County, at about 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday and died less than an hour later, WMBF-TV reported, citing authorities.
A gust of wind carried the umbrella until it hit Perreault in the chest, authorities said.
After being struck, she was treated by off-duty medical professionals until an ambulance arrived and rushed her to the emergency room. Bystanders also helped.
Sherry White, one of Perreault’s friends, was with her when the accident occurred.
“A gust of wind that came through took an umbrella through the air, and it just kept going and going. Everyone says, ‘Duck,’ and we did, but unfortunately she was in the line of fire,” White said, according to WMBF.
Perreault died at 1:33 p.m.
“This is a terrible loss, and we know our community is hurting,” said Thomas Bell, a spokesperson for Horry County Emergency Management. “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim as they navigate through this difficult time.”
White called Perreault “the most loving and kind person I think I ever met.”
Have you ever seen the wind carry away a beach umbrella?
“She never had a bad word to say about anybody,” White said. “She always put others first, and her husband and her were inseparable. If you saw Mike, you saw Tammy. They had a great passion and love for each other.”
Patrons at Scotty’s Beach Bar in Surfside Beach also expressed their grief, posting a tribute to Perreault on Facebook.
“Today with heavy hearts we mourn the loss of a dear friend and kind hearted local, Tammy Perreault,” the post read. “Some things we will never begin to understand but what we do know is no one has a bad thing to say about this woman. To be as sweet as her day in and day out should be a goal for all.
“If everyone can please keep the Perreault family in your hearts today especially her husband Mike. Mike we love you and are immensely sorry for your loss.. everyone at Scotty’s, staff and Scotty’s family will continue prayers.”
As Wednesday’s accident showed, beach umbrellas can be dangerous and even deadly if caught up by high winds.
From 2010 to 2018, an estimated 2,800 people with beach-umbrella-related injuries were treated in emergency rooms in the nation, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most of those injuries were caused by wind-blown umbrellas. No figure was given on fatalities.
Among its tips, the federal safety agency recommends beachgoers spike their umbrella deep into the sand so that the canopy doesn’t get carried away and end up wounding or killing someone.
A 55-year-old woman in Virginia Beach was killed by a wind-blown beach umbrella in 2016, according to the New York Post.
The tragedy prompted U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both from Virginia, to ask the CPSC to review beach umbrella safety rules.
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez addressed the deadly issue as well in 2019, calling for the CPSC “to take more aggressive action to protect beachgoers from the dangers of wind-swept beach umbrellas.”