ORLANDO — A former Volusia County lifeguard claims that underage girls are expected to have sex with their beach patrol peers and that doing so is a "rite of passage" among the young lifeguards, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Orlando.
In a suit filed earlier this month, Ashley Drury, now 19, said Volusia officials allowed a "culture of sexual abuse and depravity to take hold" of the Beach Patrol. "That culture … has focused over the years on the minor children employed as lifeguards," by the beach patrol, the suit alleges.
Drury was 16 when she began working as a lifeguard during the summer of 2008. In her suit, Drury said she had sex with three of her adult peers. One of those encounters was in a lifeguard tower.
Drury filed suit against those three men — Robert Paul Tameris, Jecoa Duane Simmons and Christin Duarte — all of whom have since been fired and were at one point the target of a criminal investigation.
Tameris, 45, of Port Orange has two pending court cases on two separate charges of unlawful sexual contact with a minor.
Simmons, 37, of Port Orange was charged with witness tampering and soliciting a person to commit perjury in an official proceeding. That case is still pending. Prosecutors decided not to file charges against him on an accusation of unlawful sex with a minor.
Duarte, 32, of Daytona Beach was also accused of unlawful sex with a minor, but prosecutors decided not to file charges in that case.
Volusia's beach patrol consists of sworn law-enforcement officers and civilian lifeguards. Tameris and Simmons are each sworn officers, though not presently employed by a law-enforcement agency, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. Duarte was a civilian lifeguard. Attempts to reach the men Wednesday morning were unsuccessful.
In the lawsuit, Drury said she filed a criminal complaint against Tameris, Simmons and Duarte in March 2009 for the alleged sexual abuse.
Drury also is suing several top Volusia County officials.
In her lawsuit, Drury said it's "common knowledge" that youths hired as lifeguards are expected to have sex with the officers and adult lifeguards.
Drury said the sex abuse wasn't "an occasional occurrence by a few isolated individuals, but was a regular fact of life for members of the beach patrol, occurring over the course of many, many years," according to court documents. The suit, filed Aug. 6, names several other alleged abuse victims, identifying them by their initials.
County spokesman Dave Byron noted Tameris, Simmons and Duarte were fired and the county initiated the investigation and turned the matter over to law enforcement.
"The Volusia County beach patrol has an international reputation for excellence," Byron said in an email statement. "It's one of the few beach safety organizations in the world where the full-time members of the patrol are triple certified as Florida law enforcement officers, certified lifeguards and (emergency medical technicians). It's an accredited law enforcement agency."