Local News

Mother talks about son's fatal tubing accident

Posted September 1, 2010 1:05 p.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2010 7:17 a.m. EDT

— Melinda Coleman had just sat down to dinner when she got the call from her daughter with the devastating news.

"She said, 'It's Brandon.' And I said, 'What?'" Coleman recalled. "'He's gone.' And I said, 'He's gone where?' She said, 'He's gone forever."

Coleman's 21-year-old son, Brandon Leigh Godfrey, got tangled in a tow rope while tubing on Lake Jocassee in upstate South Carolina on Aug. 21 and died from his injuries.

Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis said Godfrey died of neck trauma after he fell or jumped onto a ski rope pulling a second tube. The autopsy showed he suffered a fractured cervical spine that cut his spinal cord.

An investigator told Coleman that her son's wind pipe was crushed and that he likely died instantly. His death was ruled an accident, and authorities said no alcohol was involved.

Godfrey, a lifelong Cumberland County resident and 2006 South View High School graduate, was in the area visiting his step-siblings, his mother said.

"He was there to have so much fun, and he was, I'm sure, having so much fun," she said. "He loved the outdoors, boating, sports."

Coleman said she felt compelled to talk about her loss in an effort to urge people using ski tubes to be careful.

"I don't want this to happen to anybody else. When and if safety regulations need to be toughened, I would like that to happen," she said.

Although it's unclear how many involved tubes, Coast Guard officials said there were 469 water skiing accidents and 13 deaths across the country last year. Skiing mishaps were the second highest type of water accident, just behind boat collisions.

Godfrey, who worked for Greyhound, was a student at Fayetteville Technical Community College and hoped to become a music engineer, his mother said. He loved football, and played in high school, and especially loved his friends.

"He loved his friends fiercely. (He was) fiercely loyal," Coleman said.