Thomas Lopez, Lifeguard At Hallandale Beach, Fired For Helping Drowning Swimmer

on July 05 2012 11:08 AM
Hallandale
Thomas Lopez, a lifeguard a Florida’s Hallandale Beach, was fired for leaving his official work zone in order save the life of a drowning swimmer. Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Lopez, a lifeguard a Florida's Hallandale Beach, was fired for leaving his official work zone in order save the life of a drowning swimmer.

I ran out to do the job I was trained to do, said Lopez, 21, of Davie, reported the Sun-Sentinel. I didn't think about it at all.

In protest, two other lifeguards have been fired for failing to agree with the policy and at least four others have quit..

What was he supposed to do? Watch a man drown? asked one protesting coworker, Szilard Janko.

Other workers agreed.

I can listen to the rule and tell them that I wouldn't help someone who was distressed, but I knew if the incident ever came up I would go, said 19-year-old Brian Ritchie, who was fired for saying he would rescue someone outside his patrol zone, according to ABC.

On Monday, Lopez was alerted by several beachgoers that a man was struggling in the water. However, the drowning man was outside the territory that Jeff Ellis Management, the company that employs Lopez as a lifeguard, patrols. Lopez was quick to act. Jeff Ellis Management is an Orlando based company that has been providing lifeguard services to the city's beaches since 2003, reported the Sun-Sentinal.

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, he said, according to NBC.

Lopez radioed his boss to let him know he running out of his zone for a rescue. However, his manager told him not go and call 911 instead.

It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn't going to say no, he said.

As Lopez approached the drowning man, he saw beachgoers pulling him out of the water, but still offered his help.

I put him in the recovery position, which we are trained to do, and I had a nurse come and help me, Lopez said, reported NBC. The man was taken to Aventura Hospital and is currently in intensive care.

As he returned to his post, he said he expected to reprimanded.

And I'm like, I'm going to lose my job, aren't I? he recalled saying.

Lopez said he was aware that incident did not occur in his zone, but felt he could not just sit back and watch a man potentially die.

I was prepared for it, he said of his firing. It wasn't too much of an upset because I had my morals intact over my job.

Company officials said that Lopez in fact put other beachgoers in his area in jeopardy and the firm could have been sued.

We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area, said supervisor Susan Ellis, according to the Sun-Sentinal.What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.

However, Lopez countered that argument saying that his job is too help people, no matter what zone they are in.

[We] should have jurisdiction to help someone without worrying about losing our jobs, he said, according to ABC.

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