A look into balcony regulations after deadly fall

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – After a woman falls to her death at a Grand Strand hotel, WMBF News is taking a look at what regulations are in place to keep guests safe on the balconies.

Wednesday morning, Horry County Police say a 34 year old North Carolina woman fell to her death from the 14th floor of the SeaWatch Resort.

This certainly isn't the first time something like this has happened. Horry County Coroner Robert Edge estimates that, on average, one to two people die in the area each year from falling off balconies.

In June of 2009, a North Carolina man died after falling off the third floor balcony at the Holiday Sands South Hotel.

In August of 2008, a 22 year old died after falling from a tenth floor hotel room at Hotel Blue.

While each of these incidents are different and Horry County Police are still investigating the most recent report, WMBFNews checked in with a local architect to see what regulations are in place to keeps people safe. He says all hotels are governed by the International Building Codes.

He says each hotel balcony has to be at least 42 inches high, and each rail or post can't be any further than 4 inches apart.

Each railing also has to be able to withstand a strong load, to make sure the railings don't just fall down, if someone pushes on them.

Even though there are laws in place some travelers, like Barbara Bridges, still take extra measures to be safe.

"I usually stay away from it," said Bridges. "I'm not leaning all on it and things of that nature. I just want to sit in the lounge chair, or chair and look at the sights, no need to lean over the railing."

At Oceans One in Myrtle Beach, Lynn Nguyen says they have Plexiglas on some of the side rooms, and they encourage families with small children to rent these rooms, to make sure those kids can stay extra safe on the balconies.

"There's not a lot of places for children to put their hands or fingers through, and it's hard to climb because it's just one slick piece," Nguyen explained.

That's just one of the things Oceans One does to make sure guests stay safe. On some of their other rooms, they do have the traditional metal rails, but they are tall.

"You've really got to be standing on something else to get over them," said Nguyen.

No matter what type of railing a hotel room may have, nothing takes the places of staying safe and using common sense to not lean over the railings, or try to get from room to room by climbing on those railings.

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