Skip to Content

Mother sues after daughter becomes second child in 3 years to drown at Myrtle Beach resort

By Eva Roytburg, CNN

(CNN) — After watching her older sister float through the lazy river, 4-year-old Demi Williams wanted in.

The lazy river loop at the Myrtle Beach resort was about three feet deep; Demi was 3-and-a-half feet tall. Her mother, Destiny Morgan, granted permission for the toddler to go in, then patiently waited for Demi to float back to her through the loop, according to a recently filed wrongful death lawsuit.

Demi never came back. After frantically searching for her daughter, Morgan found her in the middle of a crowd by an adjacent pool, with strangers performing CPR on her, according to a police report. She was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to CNN affiliate WMBF.

She claims in the lawsuit that the 2021 tragedy happened because of Crown Reef Beach Resort and Waterpark’s negligence.

There was no lifeguard or staff on duty at the time of the drowning, and there were no exterior cameras monitoring the pool, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, the resort had “poor and inadequate lighting,” the lawsuit alleged.

CNN has reached out to Sam Stathos, the registered agent for Crown Reef Resort, for comment, and has not received a response. CNN also left several voicemails to the Crown Reef Resort front desk, with no response.

The resort, which hugs the beach coastline, is not required by law to have lifeguards at their lazy rivers or pools without slides, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control wrote in an email to CNN. Everywhere there is not a lifeguard, there must be a sign posted saying “No Lifeguard on Duty Swim at Your Own Risk,” the department added.

Following the drowning, the department said in an email to CNN that it inspected the pools in the resort and found all the pools that were required by law to have the signs, had them.

Shortly after her daughter’s death, Morgan was arrested and charged with unlawful neglect of a child. Nearly three years later, her case was dismissed after prosecutors declined to pursue it.

A witness at the scene of the drowning that night told police she saw a female, who appeared to be Demi’s mother, take the 4-year-old to the pool before walking away, according to a Horry County police report. The witness told police she recognized the adult female because earlier that day, she saw her leave Demi in a hot tub while she went to the beach.

Attorneys for Morgan did not respond to several requests for comment from CNN.

Demi’s drowning happened only days before another child, 5-year-old Shane Chester, was pulled from the pool at another Myrtle Beach hotel, the Ocean Reef Resort, WMBF reported.

Another mother sued the Crown Reef Resort in 2020 after her daughter, 7-year-old Malazya Fayall, drowned in the resort pool in August 2018. Latoya Fayall alleged in the lawsuit the pool area was overcrowded, and similarly, was not monitored by a lifeguard or exterior cameras.

CNN reached out to the registered agent listed on the Fayall lawsuit for Crown Reef, Matthew Magee.

Through its insurer, Crown Reef Resort paid Latoya Fayall $500,000 in a settlement without admitting liability, according to court documents. The case was dismissed with prejudice in 2023.

Adam Katchmarchi, the CEO of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, said while state law does not require the use of lifeguards, he would encourage resorts to investigate providing lifeguards and other safety measures at pools.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 4 in the United States, according to Katchmarchi. As the warmer months approach, he encouraged parents to create a “vacation water safety planning tool.”

“As much as we, as the public, rely on safety officials like lifeguards… the reality is we all still have to look out for our own individual family’s safety.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - National

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KION 46 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content