Weather Data Source: South Carolina Weather

Myrtle Beach Debates Over Police Safety Measures Following Fatal Beach Patrol Incident

Beach Patrol Utility Vehicle

Vehicle-related beach fatality sparks re-evaluation of police safety protocols in Myrtle Beach

A tragic incident involving a police vehicle on a crowded beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has prompted lawmakers and first responders to question their current practices. On June 13, 2024, a police officer fatally struck a 66-year-old sunbather, Sandy Schultz-Peters, with a Ford Ranger truck during a beach patrol. The incident has sparked a debate about the suitability of large vehicles for beach patrol, particularly during peak tourist times when the beaches are most crowded.

Questioning the use of Trucks for Beach Patrol

The incident led many to question why full-size vehicles are deployed for beach patrol when the risk of injuries or fatalities is high due to the large crowds. Among the critics is state Rep. William Bailey, who argues that these vehicles are too large for compact spaces like crowded beaches. Bailey, also a former North Myrtle Beach public safety director, said he often preferred ATVs for beach patrol during his tenure because they were safer and easier to navigate. He is currently drafting a bill that would limit the use of full-size vehicles on the beach during peak times unless they are attending to an emergency.

Public Safety Agencies and the Need for Larger Vehicles

Despite the concerns raised by lawmakers, some public safety agencies are holding onto their large vehicles, stating that the equipment-carrying capacity of these vehicles and the comfort they provide to the officers in terms of air conditioning cannot be substituted. Meredith Denari, a spokesperson for the Myrtle Beach Police Department, emphasized the role of Chevrolet Colorados, Ford Rangers, and Nissan Frontiers in beach patrol, stating that these pick-up trucks carry critical equipment such as flotation devices, medical aid kits, masks, and snorkels, which require ample space. She also noted that the trucks provide quick transportation for people in need of emergency care, aid in quickly navigating the crowded beaches, and provide protection from the weather.

Picking the Right Tools for Beach Safety

The suitability determining the type of vehicle deployed for beach patrol is often decided based on the resources available and the specific demands of the beach. The USLA (United States Lifesaving Association), in its statement after the incident, said that while every lifesaving tool used on the beach presents a degree of risk, the choice of tool depends on its appropriateness for the beach. Meanwhile, local agencies like the Midway Fire Rescue have made the switch to beach ATVs, claiming they are smaller, easier to navigate, and can transport patients from the beach, a task not feasible with full-size trucks.

Moving Forward with New Safety Measures

In the wake of the incident, city officials are re-evaluating their safety protocols and considering adding safety equipment such as exterior cameras and object detection sensors to their beach patrol trucks. Similarly, the Horry County Police Department, which employed the officer involved in the fatal incident, is also reviewing the incident and there have been calls among county leaders for a discussion on the issue of beach patrol trucks. Despite differing opinions on the issue, everyone agrees on the priority – ensuring such tragic incidents do not occur in the future, whether it means legislative changes or a shift in agency safety protocols.

Leave a Reply


Recent Posts

Featured Business

Featured Neighborhood

Sign up for our Newsletter