Focus on beach umbrella safety after accidents cause injuries, death

Water Safety Tip

HARWICH, Mass. — It was a beautiful beach day in July 2011 when a beach umbrella – something many might not even consider a dangerous object – changed a Massachusetts man's life forever.

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Rod Cartocci said that on that summer day in Dennis, the wind picked up, and a stranger's beach umbrella "blinded him in his left eye."

"I heard this flapping noise and I turned my head, and the next thing I saw was the point of that umbrella," recalled Cartocci, a retired public school health teacher.

Now living in Harwich, Cartocci still goes to the beach, but he cringes when he sees others haphazardly resting umbrellas in the ground.

He showed a WFXT crew how to properly install one with a sand anchor.

"Screw that down as deep as you can," he said.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, over the past nine years, 32,764 umbrella-related injuries have been reported.

A Virginia woman was killed by an umbrella that impaled her in the chest.

The push for umbrella safety has gone all the way to Washington.

Robert Houton organized the "Sand Up for Safety" campaign.

He was vacationing on Nantucket when a beach umbrella nearly speared his own children.

He's working with congressional leaders to encourage the CPSC to develop a uniform rating system for how much wind an umbrella can withstand.

And he'd like the CPSC to work with manufacturer's to develop a safer umbrella.

"There will likely be some weighted instrument or lever or hook that helps the umbrella stay in place. You know, a perfect example is the patio umbrella," Houton said. "Years ago, before that was fixed, because it was, patio umbrellas were flying all over the place."

As for Cartocci, he now wears an acrylic contact lens, and the blindness has affected his balance and spine, but the former teacher also worries most about children getting hurt.

"It's very much like a weapon," Cartocci said.

And Cartocci also would like to see lifeguards walking around on the beach to make sure umbrellas are installed properly.