Tomas Lopez: Lifeguard Fired for Rescuing Swimmer
Florida Lifeguard Tomas Lopez Fired for Being a Lifeguard
Tomas Lopez, a 21-year-old lifeguard on Florida's Hallandale Beach, was fired for saving a swimmer who appeared to be drowning. The problem was that the swimmer was swimming about 1,500 feet south of the area Lopez was hired to protect. Tomas Lopez rescued the swimmer, who was taken to a nearby hospital, on July 2, 2012.
Tomas Lopez told CNN, "The reason I was fired is just ridiculous. It is a ridiculous rule, really. What was I supposed to do? Just let the guy drown?"
Hallandale Beach outsources its lifeguards to a private company called Jeff Ellis and Associates, whose Susan Ellis told WPTV, "We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area. What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do."
If you think that's a jobsworth answer, you're not alone: two other Hallandale Beach lifeguards have since quit in protest. Even Jeff Ellis acknowledged that the beach remained protected despite Tomas Lopez' insistence on helping a drowning swimmer on the wrong side of the beach.
Jeff Ellis initially shied away from comment, but the media backlash forced him to acknowledge that perhaps firing Lopez was out of line: "If he was well-intentioned and tried to do what he believed was the right thing, even if he deviated from policy, I'm not sure termination was the right thing to do."
Tom Gill, spokesman for the US Lifesaving Association (USLA) said that firing Tomas Lopez was too harsh. He couldn't say much more, though, since Jeff Ellis and Associates is not USLA-certified.
Tomas Lopez was offered his old job back, but he turned the opportunity down.