HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — An Horry County woman was killed Wednesday afternoon after being accidentally impaled by a beach umbrella, according to Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard.
At about 12:40 p.m., Tammy Perreault was at a Garden City beach when the umbrella was carried by the wind and hit her, according to Willard. Perreault died at about 1:31 p.m. at an emergency room from chest trauma.
She was 63 years old. Willard said it appeared it was not Perreault’s umbrella.
The umbrella hit her about 40 minutes before she was declared dead, according to an incident report obtained by News13. She was at Beach Access 14, near Calhoun Drive.
Three witnesses said the umbrella was lifted from the ground in front of the Sea Watch Hotel and flipped end over end until it hit Perreault, according to the report. The umbrella hit her in the left side of the upper torso.
Horry County is “aware of the tragic death,” according to a statement Thursday afternoon, and is “continuing to look into the matter.”
“This is a terrible loss, and we know our community is hurting,” the statement reads.
“We understand a number of good Samaritans and off-duty medical professionals did provide initial care to the victim on the beach,” the statement reads. “Their actions to offer comfort and first aid are honorable and appreciated. Thank you also to first responders from Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Rescue, Horry County Police Department Beach Patrol, and Beach Services, Ltd., who provided emergency medical services and transportation to an area hospital.”
The statement continues on to state that “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim as they navigate through this difficult time.”
On Wednesday, there were 10-15 mph winds with gusts up to 21 mph, according to News13 Chief Meteorologist Frank Johnson. The winds were out of the west. The temperature was in the low 90s and the surf was normal.
“Today with heavy hearts we mourn the loss of a dear friend and kind hearted local, Tammy Perreault,” Scotty’s Beach Bar in Surfside Beach said in a Facebook post. “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.”
Horry County-operated beach rules ban shading devices that obstruct a lifeguard’s view of an area. Shading devices also can’t be within 10 feet of an established umbrella line.
Shading devices must also be secured.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends spiking beach umbrella poles into the sand at least two feet. Umbrellas should be tilted into the wind to prevent it from blowing away. The base should also be anchored, and sand should be packed around the base.
About 5,512 beach umbrella injuries were recorded to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System between 2000 and 2019, according to a study published in the Journal of Safety Research in 2021. Wind was a cause in 50.6% of beach umbrella injuries. About 16.6% of the incidents included injuries to internal organs.
Most were women over the age of 40.