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Five years after deadly beach umbrella accident in Virginia Beach, Virginia senators continue to push for safety regulations

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Posted at 2:49 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 16:43:04-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – On this Labor Day as summer begins to wind down, lawmakers continue pushing for more safety regulations for beach umbrellas.

According to a press release from U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s office, both Warner (D - Va.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D - Va.) along with Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.), are pressing product safety regulators to include beach umbrellas in their testing protocols as they work to develop new safety standards for umbrellas sold to consumers.

It’s the latest push in the senators’ continued effort to protect beachgoers following multiple accidents involving wind-swept beach umbrellas, including in 2016, when Lottie Michelle Belk of Chester, Va., was struck in the torso and killed while vacationing in Virginia Beach with her family.

The senators sent a letter dated August 31 to ASTM International, a non-profit organization that often partners with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to develop technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems and services.

One paragraph reads, “Summer is in full swing, and as millions of newly vaccinated Americans emerge from their homes to spend time at the shore, we must do all we can to ensure the safety of beach umbrellas.”

To read that entire letter, click here.

According to the U.S. Senate, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated in a June 2019 letter to the governing body that over the nine-year period from 2010-2018, an estimated 2,800 people sought treatment in emergency rooms for injuries related to beach umbrellas. A majority of those injuries were caused by a wind-blown beach umbrella.

News 3 interviewed Joy Catalano of Virginia Beach. She was seriously injured Memorial Day weekend in 2019 when a gust of wind lifted her family’s umbrella and jabbed it into her side. There was no blood, so she thought she was okay, but that wasn’t the case.

“I had a little bruise, a little dot from the point from the umbrella. That’s all I have. It was all internal.”

Catalano said after being rushed to the hospital, doctors discovered her liver had been lacerated. She was told it would heal itself and that she needed to have bed rest for several weeks.

Related: Sens. Kaine, Warner raise beach umbrella safety concerns

“I was at the beach not too long ago; I still see those flimsy umbrellas and I cringe,” described Catalano. “And I tell people, ‘You know, you gotta be careful with that,’ and I’ll tell them my story. And for the most part, they’ll put their umbrella away and not use it, and I’ll tell them, ‘I’m not trying to scare you, but this is what happened to me.’ So, I’m still seeing them, but I’m seeing a lot more of the shade thing and bigger umbrellas with more weight.”