MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach Lifeguards' contract with the city is still suspended as the company's attorney and the city manager await the results of an American Red Cross investigation into the lifeguards' certifications.
"We'd like very much to go back to work," Gene Hudson, the owner of Myrtle Beach Lifeguards, told city council members Tuesday. "Our whole company is out of work."
Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said the city's own investigation into Myrtle Beach Lifeguards started with a complaint about a lifeguard spending too much time at a hotel instead of watching the beach.
He said the city found that lifeguard was not certified and then a full investigation of the company began.
The attorney for Myrtle Beach Lifeguards, Stephen Goldfinch, said the investigation began with the drowning death of a 14-year-old boy from Georgia in the Myrtle Beach Lifeguards jurisdiction.
Pedersen said he thinks the complaint about the one lifeguard came in before that.
He added the city then found several lifeguards had expired certifications or had never been certified.
When the company tried to fix that, Pedersen said the certifications themselves were questionable.
"My intention is to let the investigation that the Red Cross is currently doing of this whole situation play out," he said. "It's their certification. It's their requirements that are in question."
"The city attorney has questioned 10 of our certificates," Hudson said. "Not all of our certificates, but 10 of them."
Stephen Goldfinch said the actual lifeguards' training is not the problem.
"They're qualified," he said. "They are qualified pursuant to the contract the city requires. They're qualified pursuant to the United States Lifesaving Association. They've done all of the training required."
He said 10 lifeguards had a training session in June prior to the summer season. That training course was done at a facility that was not certified through the American Red Cross itself, according to Goldfinch.
"It's a mistake that many people could make," he told council members. "In fact, it's a mistake I understand is being made by a number of different lifeguard associations across the state."
He added the facility has to pay the Red Cross for that certification, and that one of the facilities was a pool at the company's office along U.S. 501.
"It was very simply a requirement that was not known," Goldfinch said. "You can easily understand why you would overlook that a training facility would have to be certified by the Red Cross. The training facility, quite honestly, has everything that's necessary to do the training."
Pending the final results of the American Red Cross investigation, Goldfinch said the owner of Myrtle Beach Lifeguards is ready to get his lifeguards trained in December at Pepper Geddings, which he said is considered to be a certified training facility.
Goldfinch told city council members an employee made a mistake and it is a mistake he hopes does not cost the company, and the city, 38 years of lifeguarding.
"This is something that is not going to happen again," he said. "I'm sure they will probably agree with me that this is not a reason to kick these people off the beach for good."
Goldfinch said the summer season is almost over now, but he hopes to look toward getting Myrtle Beach Lifeguards back on the beach next summer.