Lifeguard fired after rescue

July 4, 2012 at 1:53 PM
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla., July 4 (UPI) -- A Florida lifeguard said he was fired for participating in a rescue that took place out of the beach zone his company is contracted to protect.

Tomas Lopez, 21, of Davie, said he had been working for Jeff Ellis and Associates, the company that has provided lifeguards to beaches and pools in Hallandale Beach since 2003, for about four months Monday when his attention was called to a man struggling in the water south of his post, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Wednesday.

Lopez ran toward the man, about 1,500 feet south of the company's protective boundaries, and assisted with his care when a group of people pulled him from the water.

Lopez said he was required to fill out an incident report about the man's situation and he was subsequently fired for leaving the company's boundaries. At least two other lifeguards have quit in protest of his firing, Lopez said.

Company officials said Lopez's actions put beachgoers at risk and could have resulted in the company being sued.

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

Lopez said he stands by his actions.

"It was the moral thing to do," Lopez said. "I would never pick a job over my morals."

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