Tomas Lopez, a lifeguard at Hallandale Beach, was told a man was drowning outside the beach area he was hired to protect. He did the right thing and ran to save the man’s life. He knew the rules prohibited him leaving his area but he couldn’t let the man drown.
He was fired for leaving his area unprotected. The rescue took place about 1,500 feet south of the company’s protective boundaries. The unprotected area has signs alerting beach goers to swim at their own risk.
Jeff Ellis and Associates provides the lifeguard services for the local beaches and pools and are afraid of lawsuits. “We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area,” said supervisor Susan Ellis. “What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.”
Two other lifeguards were fired. They were asked if they would have done the same thing and said they would. They were immediately fired.
“They sat me down and told me that my answer will determine if I get to keep my job or not,” said Travis Madrid, 20. “When I told him I would do the same thing, they told me I was dismissed.”
Several other lifeguards quit in protest. “What was he supposed to do? Watch a man drown?” asked one, Szilard Janko.
The man had been pulled to shore by beach goers by the time Mr. Lopez got to the location but he was semi-conscious. Mr. Lopez and a nurse attended to him until EMT’s arrived. The man survived but was in intensive care through Tuesday.
When Tomas Lopez filled out the accident form, his boss fired him on the spot for leaving his designated zone.
Well, today, the company has rethought it and said they might have acted in haste. The Sun-Sentinel said that the lifeguard will be offered his job back. The same offer will be made to the other fired lifeguards and the lifeguards who quit.
This story gained worldwide attention. The company launched an investigation and Jeff Ellis, the head of the management company, said that the area was covered at the time and that was the question he needed answered before making a determination to hire the lifeguards back.
Lopez said today that he will decline the job offer.
“They are trying to fix the wrong that they did. I just don’t want to work for that company anymore,” Lopez said. “It’s not out of spite against the company. After all is said, I really just want to move on and get another job.”
No word on what the other lifeguards plan to do.
Read about it at the Sun-Sentinel