See where a city commissioner and an Ormond Beach resident stand on beach driving in the aftermath of an accident.
It’s been seven years since Ormond Beach resident Portia Patrick lost her 4-year-old son in a beach driving accident in New Smyrna Beach.
“Any parent that has been present for the majority of their child’s younger life knows that in a split second, things can change," Patrick said.
She said the accident didn't happen because somebody wasn't paying attention or they weren't watching their son. The beach was crowded that day on July 18, 2010. It was high tide, the water reaching into the traffic lane.
A van was incorrectly parked on the beach as they visited a family next to where Patrick was, blocking an incoming truck’s path. As the vehicle went around the van, Patrick’s son Aiden ran into the water, and was struck.
Last week, Ormond Beach witnessed a similar incident by the Harvard beach approach.
A 4-year-old boy from Deltona was boogie boarding during high tide when he was truck by a large pickup truck on July 16, just two days short of the seven-year anniversary of Aiden’s death. The boy was airlifted to Arnold Palmer hospital in Orlando, where he is currently in recovery.
“It’s a tragic accident, but you can’t argue the fact that if the truck was not there, that the little boy wouldn’t be in the position that he’s in,” Patrick said.
City Commissioner Troy Kent said what happened to the boy from Deltona was a terrible thing, but that accidents happen from time to time and that Ormond Beach needs beach driving.
“I’m an advocate for beach driving,” Kent said. “I think that unless you have adequate off-beach parking on the beachside of A1A, then you will always have to have beach driving because our residents and visitors alike, but mostly residents—they need to have access to the beach.”
As a parent, Kent said he only took his son to no-driving beach zones in Ormond-By-The-Sea until he was about 9 years old.
"Is low okay when you can absolutely eliminate [beach driving accidents]? I mean, maybe if it was their child they would have a different perspective.”
Portia Patrick, Ormond Beach resident.
“I didn’t want to be scared to death the whole time I was at the beach,” Kent said.
The only way to eliminate the possibility for beach driving accidents is to completely take all the vehicles off the beach in Ormond, Kent said. Due to the fact that Ormond Beach only has one beachfront park, Andy Romano, with adequate parking, the city cannot get rid of beach driving access.
“When you do that, you then create a private beach for everyone that owns beachfront property and that’s not fair to everyone else that lives in the community and wants to access the beach,” Kent said.
Senior Capt. Tamra Marris from Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue said beach driving accidents are not common.
“Every weekend here can be a special event just with the number of people and the crowds down here, so as far as the numbers of people down here in the beach compared to incidents, it’s very low,” she said.
Patrick said “low” was not okay.
“Is low okay when you can absolutely eliminate that?” Patrick said. “I mean, maybe if it was their child they would have a different perspective.”
“Ormond Beach needs beach driving.”
Zone 2 City Commissioner Troy Kent.
Volusia County charges $10 per vehicle for a daily beach parking pass.
Since 2012, Volusia County has passed rules to regulate beach driving, such as a 10-mile speed limit, driving with headlights turned on and a front window open, as well as refraining from texting. Marris said beach traffic lanes are considered a state highway, so all regular driving laws apply.
“It’s one of those things where we’re constantly monitoring the traffic lanes and dealing with traffic issues to make sure everyone’s safe and make sure we can get people on the beach when needed and when it’s safe to do so, but when it’s not, we close the beach to driving,” Marris said.
She also said the day of the most recent accident, beach driving access had been closed for a few hours at the time, due to the high tide conditions. Vehicles weren’t allowed to cruise the beach. Marris said they either had to park or exit the beach.
The truck the 4-year-old boy ran into was leaving the beach.
Patrick said it is the city leaders’ jobs to reevaluate situations—something they do all the time with other issues, and that this one shouldn’t be an exception. She said if the city continues to allow beach driving, it needs to try and make it as safe as possible.
“One life should be enough to reevaluate the situation,” Patrick said.