A 3-year-old boy at a church picnic at an Irmo park died over the weekend after being hit by a fallen tree branch, Richland County coroner Gary Watts said Sunday.
“The victim was with family and friends on a church picnic when the incident happened,” Watts said. “He was just running around at the park playing.”
Jacoby Latta of 108 Winesett Road in Irmo was struck in the head around 5 p.m. Saturday at the Community Park of Irmo and pronounced dead shortly after 10 p.m. at a local hospital, Watts said.
Meanwhile, Irmo town officials closed the park to the public and said they would take immediate steps to make the park safe from any similar mishaps when it reopens.
The 14-acre park, which has hundreds of trees, opened last November after the town spent $1.7 million on new facilities that included picnic areas, a children’s playground, a pond, a fountain, an amphitheater and a quarter-mile walking trail. It is located within a mile of I-26 and is just off Lake Murray Boulevard.
The park, in the center of town, has proved very popular, and groups are constantly booking events such as family reunions and other outings, town administrator Bob Brown said Sunday evening. It is also the home this year of the annual Okra Strut festival, a two-day event in September that attracts tens of thousands.
Brown said the five-member town council will like be discussing the tragedy and what steps to take with the park on Monday and Tuesday.
“We want to make sure it is safe,” he said.
“We will be hiring a tree company,” Brown said, adding an arborist will inspect all the trees near the park’s public areas and walking trail.
From all appearances, Brown said, the tree whose branch fell and struck the boy was a healthy tree. The branch was fairly large and fell from a height of 40-50 feet or so, he said.
Large tree branches can weigh hundreds and even more than 1,000 pounds and can be fatal if they strike someone. Such fatalities are rare.
The branch just fell from a tree, Watts said. An autopsy Sunday showed that Jacoby died from complications of his head injury.