Killer on the Beach: The Hidden Danger of Umbrellas and the Destruction They Can Cause

When propelled by heavy winds, a beach umbrella can pose tremendous danger, an Inside Edition investigation has found.

As beach season approaches, a hazard may be lurking in the sand while you're having fun in the sun — a wind-propelled umbrella.

In an astonishing incident caught on video, two dozen umbrellas can be seen tumbling down the beach, propelled by heavy winds in Ocean City, Maryland.

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At another beach, giant runaway umbrellas have been filmed smacking people in the head as they scramble to safety.

It may be hard to believe that umbrellas can be so dangerous, but last year, Lottie Belk lost her life after she was hit by a flying umbrella in Virginia Beach.

Many times, the umbrellas have caused serious injuries. Lynn Stevens and Ed Quigley are both victims of freak umbrella accidents, and the strangers have come together to tell their story.

Ed was relaxing with family at Bethany Beach in Delaware when he was struck.

“I saw this umbrella lift four feet in the air, turn on its end and just shoot straight into my eye,” he told Inside Edition.

The Richmond, Va., native lost the use of his left eye and also his sense of taste and smell.

“It's a loss of some of the things that make life sweet,” he said.

Fifteen miles away, on the same stretch of beach, Lynn was impaled by an errant umbrella that sliced right through her thigh, narrowly missing her femoral artery.

She told Inside Edition’s Lisa Guerrero that she “absolutely” thought she was doomed.

“My first thought out of my mind was, 'This is how I’m going to die. Oh my gosh, I’m going to die on the beach today,'" she recalled.

Lt. Lucas Bocanegra of Miami Beach Ocean Rescue says he sees rogue umbrellas flying around just about every day when gusts of wind suddenly dislodge them from the sand.

One problem is that many beachgoers don't know how to secure their umbrella properly. Guerrero and Bocanegra observed a man trying to use anything he could to anchor the umbrella down and it wasn’t working well. 

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The lieutenant went over to the struggling man and showed him the proper way to make the umbrella secure.

What should you do to secure a beach umbrella? Many use a circular motion to place the pole into the sand, which is not a good idea. Instead, rock the umbrella back and forth, and make sure the pole is buried at least 16 inches deep.

Then, direct the umbrella into the wind so a gust won't send it into the sky

Stevens and Quigley want to get the word out about beach umbrellas so no one suffers like they have. Ed Quigley has even established a website, Beach Umbrella Safety, to warn beachgoers of the dangers. 

Here are some tips to follow:

1. Make sure your umbrella is tilted toward the wind, which will help resist sudden gusts.

2. Dig your umbrella into the sand by rocking the pole back and forth, rather than using a circular motion.

3. The deeper the better — try to anchor your umbrella pole about 16 inches into the sand.

4. Use your best judgment. Consider leaving the umbrella at home during a particularly windy day.

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