Policies revisited after Ga. woman dies in Fripp golf cart crash

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 3, 2012 


The death of a Georgia woman injured in a golf cart crash on Fripp Island last month is unlikely to change policies on golf carts, officials there say.

Ellen Lambeth, 50, of Marietta died Aug. 17, three days after falling out of a gas-powered golf cart while vacationing with her family, according to the Beaufort County Coroner's Office.

One Fripp resident believes the accident should lead to more effort to warn visitors about cart dangers. An official, however, says strict rules are already in place, and no regulations could have prevented Lambeth's death.

Lambeth was riding in the golf cart with her husband, Randy, when he made a sharp left turn onto Tarpon Boulevard, Deputy Coroner David Ott said.

She struck her head on the concrete and suffered serious head trauma, Ott said. She was flown to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, where she later died.

Lambeth was buried following a funeral last week in her native Winston-Salem, N.C., according to her obituary. No charges have been filed in connection with the fatal crash, according to authorities.

A spokeswoman for the Fripp Island Property Owners Association called Lambeth's death a tragedy but said it has not prompted property owners to re-examine their rules.

"The rules we have are already so stringent," said Kate Hines, the association's general manager. "This doesn't seem to have been anything that a change to our rules could have prevented. The driver wasn't monkeying around or driving recklessly. It's just one of those things."

As of last year, Fripp Island began requiring all visitors and property owners to register their golf carts with island security. Roads on Fripp Island are private and typically patrolled only by the security force.

Security officials inspect the carts to ensure they're equipped with headlights, a rearview mirror and other safety features before allowing them to be driven, Hines said.

The rules also prohibit anyone under age 16 from driving a golf cart.

Fripp Island security officers have written 114 tickets so far this year for golf cart violations, most of which stem from parking violations and use by underage drivers, Hines said.

Fifty-five citations were written during the same period last year.

A few similar crashes have occurred in Beaufort County in recent years.

Anita Kay Bergeson, 37, of Knoxville, Tenn., died after she fell from a golf cart in 2011. She was riding with her boyfriend in his parents' golf cart in Sun City Hilton Head at about 11 p.m. with a beer in one hand and her feet propped on the dash, according to the Sheriff's Office report. When her boyfriend made a sharp left turn, she fell out, hit her head and died.

Investigators deemed it an accident but said the sharp turn and the fact that Bergeson was not holding onto the cart and did not have her feet planted on the floor contributed to her fall.

A crash on Daufuskie Island in 2008 killed Alex Yearick of Mount Pleasant. He fell out of the passenger side of a cart one night when his friend turned left onto a paved road near Bloody Point, according to a Sheriff's Office report. He died the next day at Memorial University Medical Center. A toxicology report indicated he had alcohol and cocaine in his system.

Related content

  1. Lambeth's obituary
  2. Fatal Sun City golf cart accident raises safety concerns, June 18, 2011

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