The number of Florida lifeguards fired has climbed to 7. Tomas Lopez was fired for performing a rescue outside his area, 2 others were fired for supporting the fired lifeguard and 4 others resigned in protest of the original firing. Now the company is reacting to the outrage of the Florida lifeguards fired by saying that the one now eligible for rehire
Tomas Lopez, 21 became a lifeguard four months ago, He met all of the company’s requirements including swimming and physical exams that were required for the $8.25 per hour position at Hallandale Beach.
When Lopez noticed a man in trouble, even though the man was swimming along an unprotected stretch of beach that was clearly marked as unprotected, he sprang in to action to help save a life.
Lopez said of his actions, “It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn’t going to say no”
By the time Lopez arrived to assist the drowning swimmer, several others had already pulled the man out of the water. Lopez said the man appeared to be semi-conscious and had water in his lungs. Lopez and an off-duty nurse who was fortunately present, helped the man until the city’s paramedics arrived.
Was Tomas commended for his heroic actions? Quite the contrary, he was fired from his job.
After the rescue, Lopez said his boss asked him to fill out an incident report and then fired him for leaving his assigned area. Lopez said,
They didn’t tell me in a bad way. It was more like they were sorry, but rules are rules. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
You may wondering how this could happen if he was protecting a public beach. Hallandale Beach began outsourcing its lifeguards in 2003 as a cost saving measure. The city outsourced the task of safeguarding the beach to Jeff Ellis and Associates at a cost of approximately $334,000 a year to provide four lifeguards and one supervisor at the beach year-round.
Even though other lifeguards watched Lopez’s area during the rescue and even though according to Ellis spokesperson, Susan Ellis, “The beach remained protected at all times” Lopez was still fired because, “We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area.”
Ellis also said, “What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.”
Other lifeguards working for the same company have publicly supported Lopez and were promptly fired
“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 today for saying he too would rescue someone outside his patrol zone.
“What we’re basically supposed to do is watch them die,” said 16-year-old Zoard Janko, who also backed Lopez’s decision.
The drowning victim, whose identity was not released because of medical privacy laws, remains in intensive care at an area hospital.
In a last minute reversal of their original stance and likely reacting to public outrage of the Florida lifeguards fired, Jeff Ellis, the head of Jeff Ellis Management, said lifeguard Tomas Lopez was fired too quickly and will receive an offer to be rehired. Jeff Ellis said,
I am of the opinion that the supervisors acted hastily. It was not the appropriate course of action to take
No mention was made of the other Florida lifeguards fired or the ones who resigned in protest.