SAN DIEGO — The family of an 18-year-old who drowned after getting caught in a rip current last year has filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego for negligence and dangerous conditions at Mission Beach that allegedly led to their son’s death.
The complaint was brought about a year after the parents of Crawford High School graduate, Woodlain Zachee Prudhomme, initiated an attorney-led investigation into the incident.
In the complaint, they allege that the lifeguards monitoring the beach on the day of Zachee’s death were aware of the rip currents, but did not warn beachgoers of these hazardous swimming conditions.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that this was a young life that was lost and it shouldn’t have been lost,” Evan Walker, an attorney for Zachee’s parents, said in the days after his disappearance.
The incident occurred on June 14, 2022 when Zachee was hanging out with two friends at Mission Beach to celebrate their high school graduation.
A lifeguard tower near Jersey Court in Mission Beach spotted the group of teenage swimmers in distress around 3:30 p.m. According to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department at the time, the lifeguard noticed that one was in distress.
SDFD lifeguards moved to the area to rescue two of the teens, but Zachee had gone underwater and did not surface. Officials following the incident said that rip currents were strong and visibility was low at the time of the teen’s disappearance.
Rescue crews searched the area for several days around Mission Beach to no avail. He was later presumed dead.
Several days after the incident, Zachee’s parents announced that they would be seeking an attorney-led investigation into the incident to better understand what happened that day.
In the complaint, the parents of Zachee allege that the city lifeguards were aware or “reasonably should have known” of the strong rip currents in the water near Mission Beach, but took no measures to dissuade beachgoers from swimming in the area on the day of his death.
As a direct consequence of the on-duty lifeguards’ alleged inaction to warn the public, Zachee was swept away by the dangerous conditions, the complaint says.
One lifeguard did communicate with Zachee and his friends prior to his death, according to his parents’ lawsuit filing. The lifeguard allegedly approached the group on a jet ski to instruct them to swim to one of the nearby towers, but made no mention of the rip current.
Zachee followed the lifeguard’s guidance and, in doing so, he allegedly swam right into the rip current that pulled him out into the ocean where he disappeared and drowned.
They say in the complaint that, had their son known of the rip current, he “would have not gone in the water in that area at all.”
SDFD declined to provide any information on the lawsuit. FOX 5 also reached out to the City Attorney’s office, but they declined to comment on the active litigation.
Zachee’s family is seeking relief for the economic losses the family endured relating to his death, including funeral expenses, as well as emotional damages.
The teenager had recently graduated from Crawford High School around the time of his death. A close family friend told FOX 5 last year that Zachee was a basketball player and had dreams of going to the NBA – he had just won MVP in his high school district championships.
“Woodlain … this is the guy you want on your team,” the friend continued. “He wanted to graduate high school, wanted to go to college, he wanted to get his shot at the NBA. This is a driven, talented guy.”