- The Lifeguard says he does not regret helping the man in distress.
Two colleagues of a sacked Florida beach lifeguard have resigned in protest of what they see as an unfair decision to sack a fellow lifeguard.
The lifeguard, Mr. Tomas Lopez, 21, was patrolling part of Hallandale Beach north of Miami when he was told that a swimmer was in distress in an unguarded area of the beach. He immediately left his post to help the drowning man.
Sadly, he was fired for leaving his patrol area.
“I was on stand, and guests came up to me and told me there was someone drowning, that people were screaming and so I started running in the direction,” Lopez said. “I ran out to do the job I was trained to do—I didn’t think about it at all.”
His employers gave reason that Lopez broke company rules, saying that he could have put other swimmers at risk.
“We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area,” Susan Ellis of lifeguard provider Jeff Ellis and Associates told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
She added that the stretch of Hallandale Beach that Mr Lopez was supposed to be patrolling on Monday was being protected by other lifeguards who were on the phone to emergency operators at the time.
Mr Lopez, four months in the job, ran some distance to help the swimmer who had already been pulled out of the water by other beachgoers.
He and an off-duty nurse then helped the man until paramedics arrived to take him to hospital. The unidentified swimmer is said to be in intensive care.
“I think it’s ridiculous, honestly, that a sign is what separates someone from being safe and not safe,” Mr Lopez told CBS television.
Mr. Lopez’s sack immediately sparked a public outcry, forcing his employers to review whether the firing of a lifeguard who left his “zone” to help save a swimmer was justified.
“What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.”
“If we find our actions on the part of the leadership team were inappropriate, we will rectify it based upon the information that comes forward,” Ellis stated.
Mr. Lopez was later offered back his former Job, an offer he declined.
“It’s not out of spite against the company,” he told the Sun-Sentinel.
“It’s another chapter in my life closed and I am just going to continue to get my schooling finished and get on with my career,” he told CNN