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Some lifeguards suspended as Myrtle Beach checks certifications

jlee@thesunnews

The city of Myrtle Beach has suspended one of the lifeguard companies it uses after concerns that its guards are not properly certified.

The company in question, Myrtle Beach Lifeguards, covers the beach from 67th Avenue North to 77th Avenue North. Its guards were still watching that area Tuesday afternoon, after the suspension, which takes effect Wednesday, was announced. The decision to suspend the company was made Monday, city spokesman Mark Kruea said.

He said the other franchisees the city uses will fill in on the 10-block stretch of beach starting Wednesday morning.

Gene Hudson, owner and president of Myrtle Beach Lifeguards, declined to comment on the city’s decision or the circumstances surrounding it.

“No comment. We’re working on it,” he said.

Myrtle Beach Lifeguards is under scrutiny because the city has been told that at least some guards did not have proof they passed the test to become a lifeguard, Kruea said.

“We’ve received information that causes us to look more deeply into whether or not all the lifeguards (at that company) have a valid lifeguard card,” he said, adding that the cards indicate “that you’ve successfully passed the lifeguard test.”

Chris Kacan, a nurse from Charlotte who has visited Myrtle Beach with her family multiple times this year, said she was not concerned about the guards in the area she was sunbathing in near 70th Avenue North.

“I don’t know that it would make or break my decision to come here,” she said. “But then, I’m not a swimmer. I go in and wade and splash and get wet, but I don’t swim.”

However, Kacan said untested lifeguards were misrepresenting themselves and said it would be similar if she, as a nurse, posed as a doctor.

“They have to be certified if they’re going to call themselves lifeguards,” she said.

Kacan’s daughter, Elise Kacan, said she was glad the lifeguards were present, but that they need to be trained and attentive.

“People are irresponsible, and you need to have people watching them on the beach,” she said.

Dale Spencer, who was visiting Myrtle Beach from Hampton, Virginia, said he was not concerned about the lifeguards because he was only a temporary visitor. “I can understand the local people might be (concerned),” he said.

Kruea said he did not know how many lifeguards might lack the required card.

The city uses a franchise system in which private companies place lifeguards on the beach. The companies do not receive any city money, instead earning revenue by having their guards rent out chairs and umbrellas to beachgoers.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJohnson

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