Beach umbrellas, so important to guard against the sun, are more harmful than you probably thought.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on May 27, 2019

Anyone who is a regular at the beach has probably seen a beach umbrella flying along when a gust of wind picks it up.

Ed Quigley, as he had done for 37 years, celebrated the Fourth of July holidaying with his wife’s family on Bethany Beach in Delaware in the US four years ago.

“It was a beautiful afternoon,” Quigley told Vice. “The air was hot; but stirred by a constant breeze.”

A beach umbrella ripped out of the sand and penetrated his left eye, piercing his brain. Quigley said he was dead for 23 minutes.

The injury damaged his eyesight and lost his sense of smell and taste, BBC News reported.

Last year, Londoner Margaret Reynolds was beaching on the New Jersey shore when a metal beach umbrella pierced clean-through her ankle. First responders had to remove it with bolt cutters.

In 1999, Phyllis Caliano-Bahai was struck by an umbrella “like a torpedo” as she lounged the beach with her eight-year-old son. She needed 13 stitches and suffered permanent nerve damage to her neck. New York state settled her lawsuit for $200,000 in 2006.

Beach umbrellas have proved fatal.

In 2016, Lottie Michelle Belk was killed when an errant parasol pierced her torso while she was on holiday in Virginia Beach.

In Australia, Year 4 student Karrisa McDonald was enjoying a school break-up party at the Anzac Pool in Bundaberg, Queensland, on December 13, 2012 when a gust of wind picked up an umbrella which struck her in the head, causing fatal injuries. Pool lessee Ian Craig Thomson, 40, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to comply with a workplace health and safety duty by not properly securing the umbrella.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that more than 31,000 people were treated in hospitals for umbrella-related injuries between 2008 and 2017.

Quigley now devotes himself to spreading the word about umbrella safety.

“I was unaware of the danger before my accident,” he said. “Since my accident I have found out there are thousands of injuries per year and most of them aren’t reported.”

In Victoria, Australia, between January 2006 and December 2010, there were 99 umbrella-related injuries, Monash University Injury Research Institute reported. The most common age group effected were between 0 to 14 years of age and not all incidents were caused by beach umbrellas.

“When you’ve got a wind picking up on the beach, even if you follow any of the number of lifeguard posts or videos on the internet on how to secure an umbrella in the sand—you rock it back and forth in the sand, and you put the dome of the umbrella into the wind… well, it doesn’t matter if it’s into the wind or not. The dome of an umbrella is actually an airfoil, so it works like an airplane wing. If you’ve got air at high speeds going across it, it creates a low-pressure area. So even if it’s facing into the wind, it can pull out of the sand,” Quigley explains.

“My primary advice is this: If it’s windy, take down the umbrella. Never leave an umbrella unattended. And to be really safe, use a safety device, which I outline on my website.”