Lifeguard Fired for Saving Swimmer Outside of Protected Zone — Is It Fair? [VIDEO]
Florida lifeguard Tomas Lopez was fired from his job for saving a swimmer who was drowning.
Lopez, 21, was fired Monday after he went outside of his company's protected zone to help a swimmer in need.
A beach dweller ran up to Lopez's lifeguard post to alert him that a man was drowning. The swimmer was about 1,500 feet outside of Lopez's watched zone. There are posted signs in this area, warning people to swim at their own risk. Even so, Lopez rushed to his aid.
Jeff Ellis and Associates, the company that employed Lopez, confirmed that lifeguards are instructed not to venture outside the perimeter of the beach for which they are responsible. There are liability and insurance issues to face if a lifeguard traffics outside of the protected zone, so as a result of violating policy, Lopez was terminated.
Lopez was aware that he is supposed to call 911 if an incident takes place outside of his region. However, he acted on instinct, while and knowingly and willingly ignoring the rules, when he stormed the ocean and rescued the man, who had turned blue and was having trouble breathing.
"I'm going to do what I felt was right and I did," Lopez said. "I'm not going to put my job over helping someone." Medics arrived to whisk the swimmer off to the hospital, with Lopez never even getting his name or finding out his current status.
The man is reportedly in intensive care and likely has no idea that Lopez was fired for his valiant heroism.
Lopez also said other lifeguards quit in a show of solidarity.
"At that point I knew I was going to be fired. I knew had broken the rule," Lopez, who had been working for the company, making $8.25-an-hour for four months, said. His former employers also said, "What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do."