The family of a snorkeler has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city over a man who died 10 months after injuries he allegedly suffered in an accident during a July 2017 La Jolla Cove swim.
Filed by Hamidreza Akbarzadegan, son of the late Morteza Akbarzadegan, the lawsuit contends the city should hire more lifeguards and improve the location of its towers and warning signs in dangerous La Jolla beach areas obscured by rock formations and other obstacles. The lawsuit contends that lifeguards and towers, as presently construed at the cove, impart a false sense of security to ocean users by implying continuous surveillance at the cove is a reality.
“This death was a tragedy, but under the law, San Diego taxpayers cannot be not held responsible,” responded City Attorney Mara W. Elliott.
Additionally, the suit charges that swimmers in trouble need to be responded to more promptly, and that warning signs should be posted at the cove where lifeguards’ vision from towers is obscured. The suit also blames lifeguards for not having a functional defibrillator, while alleging that lifeguards, not bystanders, should have administered medical aid to Akbarzadegan.
Akbarzadegan was snorkeling at the cove in high waves that had prompted lifeguards, earlier in the day, to order people out of the water until it was deemed safe. Akbarzadegan returned to the ocean to snorkel, only to go missing about 10 minutes later. In the lawsuit, his son claims he and his mother tried waving to lifeguards, but failed to get their attention because guard’s views were blocked by the beach’s geography.
San Diego lifeguard and former union steward Ed Harris, representing the union, noted he has personal experience with the area at the cove where the tragic snorkeling accident happened.
“I worked up there on the rocks from 2008 to 2015,” said Harris. “As everybody knows, the usage of all beach areas in the last 10 years has grown exponentially.”
Added Harris, “While I can’t quote on this case because I wasn’t there, we [lifeguards] are in need of more staffing. In the last two years, during budget meetings, we [lifeguards] never make it onto the San Diego Fire Department’s list of priorities.”
“Another person was added there in front of the cove this July,” continued Harris. “That doesn’t get us to where we need to be. But every person helps us provide better coverage.”