Last weekend's death of 4-year-old Aiden Patrick was
It also was predictable.
Another 4-year-old also had been run over and killed this year by a car on the beach in
And we all knew it could happen again. In fact, some of us begged Volusia County leaders to reconsider this deadly and outdated practice of allowing cars to drive where children play.
But they didn't. They considered driving on the beach a "tradition" they liked too darn much.
So here's the deal: If you guys are hell-bent on continuing this practice, there need to be some changes — which you probably won't like.
We'll start with warning signs. Posted at every walkway and entrance to the beach, they will say: "Warning! Your children may be killed here."
Sound harsh? Too bad. If we can do it for cigarettes, we can do it for Central Florida's deadliest beach.
The risk factor, after all, isn't theoretical. It's provable. There's a growing body count.
In the past five years, more than 40 people have been struck or run over by vehicles on the beach — with at least 20 of those people suffering serious injuries.
And yet, the last time I talked to a County Council member — just two days after 4-year-old Ellie Bland was killed in March — Josh Wagner said: "I'm still committed to driving on the beach. People just need to understand it's a road."
Josh lost some of his bravado this past week when speaking in front of the parents of the second preschooler killed on his beaches within four months.
But that we are even having this debate is nonsensical.
Children and cars do not mix. Period.
Days at the beach are supposed to be magical for kids. There are waves to jump, crabs to chase and castles to build. If you're lucky enough to find a sand dollar in the surf, the natural reaction is to bolt full-speed back towards your parents' towel to show them the treasure.
It was something that innocent that led to Aiden's death.
He spotted his dad in the surf. A smile crossed his face, and he began racing towards his father.
"Daddy!" was the last thing the little boy exclaimed before a Dodge pickup rolled over his tiny body.
And some of you want to blame that on the boy? Or his devastated parents?
I got some of the most heinous comments the last time I wrote about the death of a child on the beach.
Some of them blamed the parents. (They ignored the fact that some of the accidents in recent years were the fault of drivers — including the Beach Patrol. And show me a parent who claims they've never, ever lost sight of their child, and I'll show you a liar.)
Some made ridiculous comparisons, asking petulantly whether critics of beach-driving also wanted to close down every highway in America too, since people get killed on them every day. (No, but if you happen to know of a highway that runs straight through a playground, then yeah, let's talk.)
The two most common defenses for the status quo were that beach-driving is simply a red-blooded tradition in Daytona and that, without beach driving, there wouldn't be enough room for everyone.
Here's an idea: Get some parking.
That's what leaders in 99 percent of other coastal communities in America have done.
That should've happened years ago here. Yes, it's expensive. But if anyone's trying to amortize the cost-per-death, it's tragically going down.
Volusia leaders may finally be learning.
Late last week, the county council finally agreed to re-examine the practice, commissioning a study that would consider reducing or eliminating the practice.
The same leaders who offered little more than a collective shrug after a visiting British child was killed in March had trouble acting quite as cool on Thursday when Aiden's daddy was standing in the room with them.
Finally, they paid more attention to Pat Northey, the one council member who has crusaded for years to end beach driving. "We treat our beach as a roadway, and it's wrong," she told her peers. "It's a playground. It's
There certainly wasn't an full embrace. Wagner, for instance, argued that ending beach-driving could be worse for the local economy than an oil spill. And he told the grieving family that he tries to "take emotion out of all decision-making."
But it would be very hard for anyone to forget the plea of Aiden's father, who lamented that his little boy died for the most innocent and tragic of reasons: "He just wanted to be with his daddy."
Scott Maxwell can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-6141.
If you'd like to contact the members of the Volusia County Council, you can do so by visiting Volusia.org/countycouncil/ or calling Chairman