Teenager drowns at Myrtle Beach while lifeguards rent furniture

Vilma Mena v. Lack’s Beach Service and the City of Myrtle Beach

On June 11, 2005, 18-year-old Jose Luis Mena, Jr., along with 3 friends (Juan Soto, Yesid Menton, and Charles Garcia), traveled from Gastonia, NC to Myrtle Beach, SC with the intention of spending the day at the beach. They arrived at the beach around 08:00 hrs. After parking their car, they proceeded to the beach and were situated around 13th Avenue South, between Lifeguard stands #17 and #18, behind the north side of the Sea Mist Motel.

The water conditions at the beach that day were described as “rough and choppy” as reported by witnesses as well as the City of Myrtle Beach Police, and the beach was operated under a “Yellow” flag. Lifeguard services were provided, through a franchise agreement with the City of Myrtle Beach, by Lack’s Beach Service. Lifeguard Peter Dorn was assigned to stand #17 while Lifeguard Yordan Dichev was assigned to stand #18.

While Yesid stayed on the beach, Jose, Juan and Charles entered the ocean. According to Juan, he was at a location where he could hardly touch the bottom, and Jose was at or beyond that point.

Lifeguard Dorn was working as a dual-role lifeguard in that in addition to his responsibilities for public safety, he was also responsible for renting chairs and umbrellas to the public. Lifeguard Dorn was assigned to stand #17 which is located behind the north side of the Sea Mist Motel. According to Lifeguard Dorn, while he was writing a rental receipt, he observed three male swimmers approximately 40 yards from shore with another male standing on the beach.

While Charles was exiting the water, Juan observed that Jose was out too far and was struggling to keep his head above water. Juan swam out in an attempt to help Jose, but the waves knocked him back toward shore. Juan then returned to shore, yelling for help, and instructed Charles and Yesid to get the lifeguard for help.

As Lifeguard Dorn returned to his stand, he was approached by Yesid who stated that his friend needed help. Yesid then ran back to the water’s edge where Charles and Juan remained in an attempt to locate Jose. Lifeguard Dorn followed Yesid and continued asking questions of the witnesses. Lifeguard Dorn then contacted his supervisor by radio to report a Code 4 Missing Person report. Lifeguard Dorn also radioed for Lifeguard Dichev to meet him at the border between stands #17 and #18 for a report of a missing person.

Beach supervisors and police units eventually responded to the scene for the report of a missing person, even though Juan made numerous attempts to explain that Jose was last seen in the water and in trouble and he also identified the approximate location where Jose was last seen. The police were dispatched at 09:47 hrs. No search and rescue efforts were initiated or undertaken by Lifeguard or Police personnel.

As police units arrived, a citizen on a motel balcony yelled that he saw a body floating past the breakers in the water. Lifeguard Dorn and Police Officer Scott Williamson then entered the water in an attempt to rescue Jose. Jose was brought to shore by Lifeguard Dorn and P.O. Williamson and CPR was then administered by Dorn and Police Officer Philip Cain. They continued CPR until EMS arrived and assumed care of the patient.

A call was placed to Fire Rescue at 09:59 hrs. and they were dispatched to the location at 10:00 hrs. They arrived on scene at 10:03 hrs. EMS was dispatched to the scene at 10:04 hrs. and arrived at 10:05 hrs.

Jose was transported to the Grand Strand Regional Hospital Emergency Room where he arrived at 10:43 hrs. Jose was pronounced dead shortly after at approximately 10:50 hrs.


This case settled in August 2008 for an undisclosed amount.

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