MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The family of a man who drowned in Myrtle Beach in 2018 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that lifeguards were focused on renting beach umbrellas and chairs at the time of the drowning.
The lawsuit was filed on November 1. The plaintiffs are listed as Maswaet Abel, who the lawsuit says was the fiance of Zurihun Wolde at the time of Wolde’s drowning death.
The defendants are listed in the lawsuit as Lack’s Beach Service, the City of Myrtle Beach, and “John Doe lifeguard.”
On August 23, 2018, the family left their home in Silver Springs, Maryland to vacation in Myrtle Beach, the lawsuit states. The family arrived at the Sea Crest Oceanfront Resort in Myrtle Beach later that evening.
The family went to the beach around 10:30-11 a.m. on August 24 in front of the resort, which has lifeguard stands as well as umbrellas and beach chairs that are rented out by Lack’s Beach Service.
Lack’s Beach Service and the City of Myrtle Beach have a contract together, according to the lawsuit. “In the contract between the City of Myrtle Beach and Lack’s, the parties agreed that Lack’s would provide lifeguards and beach safety. Furthermore, the franchise agreement allowed Lack’s to rent equipment for profit.”
The lawsuit claims that on September 30, 2016, the United States Lifesaving Association wrote a letter to the City of Myrtle Beach “specifically warning about the dangers presented by combining lifesaving acts with commercial activities like renting beach chairs for money.”
This letter from the USLA also reportedly stated “the USLA will not certify any beach lifeguard agency that assigns lifeguards to a dual role of public safety and commercial activity because all water safety professionals agree that a distracted lifeguard cannot properly maintain safe surveillance of the water. In the interest of public safety, we encourage Myrtle Beach to change its standards in accordance with USLA certification standards with respect to this and other points of the USLA certification program.”
“Despite these clear and obvious warnings given in 2016, the City of Myrtle Beach and Lack’s refused to place the public’s safety as a higher importance than making money,” claims the lawsuit. ” Dual role lifeguarding sacrifices public safety in exchange for money.”
The National Weather Service issued an alert for high rip currents in the Myrtle Beach area on August 23, 2018, the lawsuit also states. “Zurihun Wolde and his family were never informed about the alert from the National Weather Service by Lack’s or the City.”
“At no point were there warning signs about the rip currents nor did lifeguards provided by Lack’s warn them of the same,” the lawsuit further claims.
The lawsuit alleges that lifeguards didn’t prevent Wolde, his family, and others from entering the water and that shortly after entering the water, Wolde and two of his four children “became caught in a rip current and began to struggle to return to shore.”
“Mr. Wolde struggled to save his two children and called for help. No lifeguard responded to his cries,” states the lawsuit. “Eventually, Mr. Wolde’s body made it to the shore where other beachgoers attempted to give him aid. After this point, lifeguards and other emergency personnel arrived on scene and began life saving efforts on Mr. Wolde. Defendant Lack’s and Defendant John Doe lifeguard at no time attempted to rescue Mr. Wolde from the water.”
Wolde was taken to Grand Strand Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to he lawsuit. The Horry County Coroner’s Office ruled his cause of death as “asphyxia due to drowning.”
News13 reached out the City of Myrtle Beach for comment. Spokesperson Mark Kruea stated the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Count on News13 for updates.
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