Lifeguard Who Got Fired For Saving Drowning Swimmer Declines Offer to Return

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As a Miami-area lifeguard, Tomas Lopez saw his job as saving lives. But when he helped rescue a drowning swimmer earlier this week, he wasn’t commended for it — he was fired. At his post on a beach in Hallandale Beach, Fla., the 21-year-old learned that a man was struggling in the water just south of his post. Though Lopez knew the man was located outside of his jurisdiction — in a “swim at your own risk” area — he quickly mobilized, teaming with an off-duty nurse to pull the man out of the water.

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But Lopez’ employer, Jeff Ellis & Associates, Inc., which has a lifeguarding contract with the city of Hallandale, saw Lopez’ decision to leave his section of beach unmonitored as a legal liability — and fired him for failing to follow company rules.

“I ran out to do the job I was trained to do,” Lopez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I didn’t think about it at all.”

The firing has drawing widespread ire and incredulity, and prompted four other lifeguards to quit in protest. The backlash prompted Lopez’s boss to reconsider, and on Thursday he was offered his job back. However, Lopez declined — not out of spite or anger, he told the Sun-Sentinelbut because he’s just no longer interested in working for the company. Two of his coworkers who’d been fired over the incident — plus the four who chose to resign — were also invited to return, although many stuck with Lopez.

Jeff Ellis, head of the company that manages the lifeguards, said the investigation of the incident is still underway. Depending on the outcome, local supervisors could be punished for their actions. In the meantime, city officials are waiting on a full report from the company. (The arrangement between Hallandale and Ellis’ company is fairly unique; most cities do not outsource lifeguarding to private companies.)

Lopez said he’s ready to move on to the next step and focus on finishing school. As for the man Lopez helped save, his name hasn’t been released, but he is reportedly in stable condition.

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8 comments
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webpuddin
webpuddin

Similar to private 'pay for service' fire departments .... House A is on fire, and has paid it's dues. House B, next to it and has NOT paid for service, has now caught on fire. Fire Department can work on House A, but cannot on house B because, say a fireman gets hurt, he's not covered by insurance. I would imagine a fireman who went into house B would be fired, as he would be a liability to the company from the perspective they must take of PROFIT. Do we really want to go here?

f_galton
f_galton

It's too bad this guy wasn't around to save that walrus I hit with my speedboat.

WallyGeez
WallyGeez

The city of Hallandale needs to CANCEL all contracts with that

incredibly callous firm. How can they justify continuing to do business

with a company that fires someone for saving another person's life

outside their contract zone? It's not only a stupid decision, it shows

utter and complete lack of human value. The city should not do business

with such people.Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/201...

Paul Pope
Paul Pope

Jeff Ellis, lemme guess, somebody's nephew.

Karen Ostrander Chiarella
Karen Ostrander Chiarella

As republicans continue to tout selling off bits and pieces to private corporations and outsourcing the jobs that each county, city or state once was in charge of - the underlying goal of all this "privatization"  is just one thing and  one thing only:  PROFIT! A man is dying a few feet away - let him drown because we could be "liable financially" if something happens in the space vacated by the lifeguard! Is this really the country we want America to become? Letting each other DIE if might impact the bottom line of a for profit company?? I personally say NO!! The current crop of republicans have gone so far right that they've literally 'fallen off the  planet'. The rhetoric and the behavior can be described in no other way than it is simply insane. this has happened before in our history and it will end - that can't be too soon for me before they do any more damage. The only 'sane' republicans like Jon Huntsman are wise to stay away from this bunch until they disappear and the only ones left standing will be those who either switched parties to become independents or democrats or simply avoided interacting with the crazies until it all blows over- only t hen can the 'sane' republicans reappear and hope to re-form the party without the lunatic fringe!

William Carr
William Carr

Well,    that's outsourcing for you.   I can't think of a time when it made anything better.

Tyais Terry
Tyais Terry

Wow. I hope that company goes bust. This is why PRIVATIZATION doesn't work. Good for Tomas for doing the right thing, and for others showing solidarity to him.