Beaufort News

Fatal golf-cart tumble ruled an accident; no charges filed

A Tennessee woman who died after falling from a golf cart in Sun City Hilton Head had her feet propped on the dash and a beer in her hand when her boyfriend "jerked" the cart into a turn, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report.

Anita Kay Bergeson, 37, of Knoxville was a passenger in the golf cart driven by her boyfriend, Alan Watts, 30, of Maryville, Tenn., when she fell and struck her head as Watts made a left turn onto Cypress Hollow from Col. Thomas Heyward Road, according to the report.

The accident occurred about 11 p.m. June 4 and Bergeson died of head trauma at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, according to Beaufort County Deputy Coroner David Ott. Watts was not injured.

According to the report filed by investigating officer Sgt. Tim Slupski, deputies found nothing that led them to believe Watts was speeding or operating the cart recklessly, or any other evidence to support criminal charges.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Tuesday he thought that the investigation into the incident was thorough and accurate.

"The investigation took its course. The facts are what they are," he said. "It was a very unfortunate accident."

Slupski interviewed Watts, Sun City security officers who responded to the accident and examined the road and golf cart. He determined Bergeson was riding on the passenger side of the golf cart with her feet on the dashboard and holding a bottle, preventing her from holding onto the cart's handrail with both hands, the report said.

"Having her feet elevated on the dash would have caused her hips to be forward, thus placing her center of gravity forward on the main portion of the handrail," Slupski wrote in the report. "... As Watts attempted to get into the turning lane to turn left, the force of the sudden lane change was great enough to force her over the right hand rail of the golf cart."

The couple were visiting Watts' parents, who live on the community's Col. Thomas Heyward Road. After arriving at about 8 p.m. June 4, they ate dinner and watched a movie until about 10:30 p.m. Watts told deputies he drank a beer and that Bergeson drank two. She was drinking her third beer when she asked Watts if they could check out the community's fitness center in his parents' golf cart, the report said.

Watts told deputies that he didn't see the left turn lane for Cypress Hollow until the "last minute," causing him to "jerk" into the lane, the report said.

That's when he felt the seat next to him "jerk" and heard the "crash" of Bergeson's bottle breaking on the pavement.

He looked over and Bergeson was gone, the report said.

Watts said he ran to where she was lying on the road. She was unresponsive and bleeding heavily from the back of her head, Watts told deputies. He called 911 and followed the instructions of dispatchers until EMS crews arrived, the report said.

Beaufort County EMS, Bluffton Township Fire District crews and Sun City security officers were dispatched to the crash, according to the report.

Both Sun City security officers who responded said they saw Bergeson's broken beer bottle in the intersection of the road. One officer heard EMS personnel ask Watts if the couple had been drinking and he said they had, the report said.

Watt's father declined Tuesday to comment on the incident. He also said his son would not be available for comment.

Funeral arrangements for Bergeson are pending but will be announced by Adams Funeral Services of Savannah.

Follow reporter Cassie Foss at twitter.com/lcblotter.

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