Drowning victim’s family files wrongful death lawsuit against Myrtle Beach, lifeguard service

(Source: City of Myrtle Beach Facebook page)
Published: Nov. 5, 2019 at 5:04 PM EST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2023 at 10:29 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – The fiancé of a drowning victim is suing Myrtle Beach and a lifeguard beach service, saying their negligence led to his death.

Meswaet Abel filed the lawsuit last week. Abel was the fiancé of Zurihun Wolde and is the mother of his four children.

The city of Myrtle Beach, Lack’s Beach Service and an unnamed lifeguard are named as the defendants in the lawsuit. Lack’s has a contract with Myrtle Beach to provide lifeguards and beach safety. Lack’s is also allowed to sell beach equipment on certain areas of the beach.

The lawsuit states that the family came to Myrtle Beach in August 2018 for a vacation and stayed at the Sea Crest Resort on South Ocean Boulevard.

On the morning of Aug. 24, 2018, the family made their way to the beach. The lawsuit claims that on Aug. 23, 2018, the National Weather Service posted an alert about rip currents in the Myrtle Beach area.

“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 states.

Court documents show that Wolde and his two oldest sons went into the water and became caught in a rip current. The lawsuit claims that Abel called for help, but no lifeguard responded to his cries for help. Other citizens came to their aid and helped the sons get to shore, according to the lawsuit.

“Eventually, Mr. Wolde’s body made it to the shore where other beachgoers attempted to give him aid,” court documents show.

The lawsuit went on to say that other emergency crews began life-saving efforts on Wolde, but the lifeguard employed by Lack’s never attempted to rescue Wolde.

Wolde was rushed to Grand Strand Medical Center where he later died.

The lawsuit also claims that the city of Myrtle Beach was negligent in hiring Lack’s because it had lost its certification from the United States Lifesaving Association in 2016.

The USLA wrote a letter to Myrtle Beach, warning about the dangers of having Lack’s provide lifesaving service while also renting out beach equipment, such as beach chairs, for money, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the letter stated, “the USLA has identified the Myrtle Beach system of combining lifesaving and commercial activities to be an unreliable means of protecting swimmers.”

The letter went on to say that it couldn’t certify any beach lifeguard agency that had its lifeguards selling products while they are supposed to be watching people in the waters.

But despite this letter, Myrtle Beach entered into a contract with Lack’s where it permitted and encouraged the use of dual role lifeguarding, according to the lawsuit.

Abel is asking for a jury trial and damages that will be determined by the court.

WMBF News has reached out to the city of Myrtle Beach and Lack’s Beach Service to get a statement on the lawsuit. Myrtle Beach said it does not comment on pending litigation. We’re waiting to hear back from Lack’s Beach Service.

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