A lifeguard who friends and colleagues said embodied the YMCA mission of helping others drowned early Thursday in the pool she was opening for the day at the Lincoln County YMCA.
Police responded to the YMCA at 1402 Gaston St. in Lincolnton for what was initially a missing person call for the lifeguard, 21-year-old Yesenia Jimenez Linares.
When police arrived at 6:45 a.m., they found Linares unresponsive in the pool. She was taken to Carolinas HealthCare System Lincoln, where she was pronounced dead.
Police said no foul play is suspected.
Linares arrived for work at 5:10 a.m., Lincolnton Police Capt. Brian Greene said. A fellow YMCA staff member became concerned after noticing the pool area was still locked. Staff called police when they couldn’t find Linares, according to Greene. The circumstances of how she ended up drowning were unknown.
Grief counselors were called in, and the YMCA was closed for the day, as staff worked with police and supported one other, said Molly Thompson, a YMCA spokeswoman. “Our Y family is heartbroken and fully focused on supporting the family, along with our entire branch staff and members,” Thompson said.
Staff comforted Linares’ mother and grandmother, as well as her adopted cousin who worked in the Y’s Child Watch program. Her father was deceased.
“They’re a part of us,” Thompson said. “They’re a part of the Y family. It’s hard for everyone, but we’re keeping the family at the center of everything. They are cared for, prayed for, comforted.”
Linares worked in various roles at the YMCA since 2014, Thompson said, previously including in its after school program.
On Wednesday night, Linares texted Javier Salazar, the Y’s member engagement and sports coordinator, about how grateful she was to begin coaching 5- and 6-year-olds in soccer at the YMCA on Monday.
Her infectious smile and kind, energetic spirit drew people to her, he said. A member of St. Dorothy Catholic Church in Lincolnton, she embodied the Y’s mission of putting Christian principles into practice to help others and build a stronger community, Salazar said.
“She was a full-on Y person” whose work especially in behalf of children will forever be cherished, he said.
The Lincoln County YMCA will hold a community prayer vigil at 12:30 p.m. Friday in its gym.
A funeral fund has been established on GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/rememberyesenia-funeral-fund. Her funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS