Money more important to Myrtle Beach, lifeguards than safety, drowning victim’s kin says

Myrtle Beach and a lifeguard service are more interested in making money than saving lives, the family of a drowning victim claimed in a lawsuit.

The family of Zerihun Wolde filed the suit in Horry County court last week. It names Myrtle Beach, Lack’s Beach Service and an unnamed lifeguard as defendants.

Wolde drowned after being caught in a riptide in August 2018.

Wolde and his family — which includes his four children — visited Myrtle Beach from Silver Springs, Maryland, and the group stayed at the Sea Crest Resort.

On Aug. 24, the family went to the beach in front of the Ocean Boulevard resort, according to the suit. That area had lifeguards from Lack’s Beach Service who rented out beach chairs and umbrellas.

Myrtle Beach has an agreement with Lack’s to provide the service. However, the lawsuit said the United States Lifesaving Association wrote a letter to the city in 2016 about the dangers of combining life-saving duties with commercial activities such as renting equipment.

“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,” the filing reads.

The suit claims that Lack’s has a history of misrepresenting its efforts to make safety a priority. The lifesaving association also stripped Lack’s of its certification years before Wolde drown, the filing states.

Lack’s Beach Service did not respond in time for this report.

Two weeks before Wolde drown, Myrtle Beach received a complaint about the lifeguard near Sea Crest Resort, the filing states. The complaint states Lack’s lifeguards were more focused on renting equipment than protecting the public.

When Wolde and his family were at the beach, there was a rip current alert, but there were no posted signs about the condition or warnings from the lifeguards, the suit claims. Wolde went into the water, was caught in a riptide and struggled to stay afloat. Other beachgoers tried to help, but he drowned.

“Defendant Lack’s and Defendant John Doe lifeguard at no time attempted to rescue Mr. Wolde from the water,” the suit states.

The filing makes a wrongful death claim and asks for an unspecified amount of money.

Myrtle Beach Spokesman Mark Kruea said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.