The role of a lifeguard is pretty much described in their title: they guard lives. So when 21-year-old lifeguard Tomas Lopez was informed that a man was drowning and needed assistance, he leapt into action to save the guy’s life. What he didn’t stop to consider was the fact that the individual was in the “swim at your own risk” section of Florida’s Hallandale Beach. None of that really mattered to Lopez; what he wanted to do was rescue the drowning swimmer, regardless of whether or not the man was dying in his so-called “zone”.
“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,” Lopez explained to NBC Miami. “I ran out to do the job I was trained to do — I didn’t think about it at all.”
Unfortunately for Lopez, his bosses didn’t care much for the young man’s heroics. As a result of leaving his area to help, Lopez was fired from his position, effective immediately. Not surprisingly, the backlash against his employers was almost instantaneous. So enraged were some of his co-workers that two of them quit in protest.
Susan Ellis, Lopez’s supervisor, commented on the company’s decision to fire the lifeguard, claiming that Lopez failed to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the company. “We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area,” she said to WPTV. “What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do. If we find our actions on the part of the leadership team were inappropriate, we will rectify it based upon the information that comes forward.”
As for the 21 year-old man Lopez risked his job to help, he’s currently recovering at an area hospital. Thanks to the selfless efforts of this lifeguard and an off-duty nurse, the guy will live to swim another day. An investigation into Lopez’s hasty termination is currently underway. Even if his job is reinstated, the young man is unsure if he’ll accept.
“Now that [the firing] is public, they want to fix it. That’s shady to me,” Lopez told Good Morning America. “If I never said anything, they never would have acted.”