Entries in lifeguard (3)


Lifeguard Fired After Rescue Might Be Reinstated

George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Thinkstock(HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.) -- The Hallandale Beach, Fla., lifeguard who was fired after saving a man outside his coverage zone may get his job back, said the private contractor that employed him.

But lifeguard Tomas Lopez, 21, told ABC News that he would not go back to work, even if he could.

"Now that [the firing] is public, they want to fix it. That's shady to me," Lopez said. "If I never said anything, they never would have acted."

Lopez said he had only been working as a lifeguard for four months at Hallandale Beach prior to being fired. He drove about 24 miles from his home in Davie, Fla., to Hallandale Beach, and worked nearly five days a week almost every week since he was hired, he said.

This is the second rescue Lopez performed as a lifeguard.

Jeff Ellis, the president of Jeff Ellis Management, told ABC News he would be conducting a full investigation into the firing of Lopez, who attempted to save a drowning man who was 1,500 feet away from the area of the public beach that the contractor patrols. Lifeguards had strict instructions not to venture outside the patrol zone.

Six other Hallandale lifeguards left the job after they told supervisors who work for the contractor that they too would have rescued the man.

Lopez said that no one from Jeff Ellis Management has contacted him yet regarding the investigation.

"There was someone who was fired before me for saying he wouldn't obey the rule," said Lopez, of Jeff Ellis Management's policy of only patrolling zones it's paid to cover. "Now that they're in trouble, they want to fix it."

Ellis, speaking from Houston, said that if he thinks the company acted in error, he may offer to reinstate Lopez, should he decide to come back. He said he would extend an invitation to any of the lifeguards who resigned to return to work, adding that they were not fired.

"This event caught me by surprise just as much as it did everyone else," said Ellis. "We're reviewing everything that has occurred, and we will either concur with that or we will override what happened based on what we find out."

Ellis said that he received conflicting accounts of what occurred on Monday afternoon when Lopez left his chair to save a man down the beach who appeared to be drowning.

"If he left his chair and we had a beach full of people and they were left unprotected, that would be one thing," he said. "If he left his beach and another guard immediately took over and covered so that the beach was protected, that would be an entirely different thing."

Ellis said he was made aware of the incident on Tuesday afternoon. He was not in the Fort Lauderdale area at the time.

He said he plans to return to Fort Lauderdale on Friday to speak with the people who quit as a result of Lopez' firing, as well as Lopez himself.

"Once we get all of [the information], we can make an assessment to determine whether or not we acted appropriately," Ellis said.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fired Florida Lifeguard's Coworkers Out After Backing His Rescue

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.) -- Six Florida lifeguards have lost their jobs for backing a coworker's decision to save a man struggling in the surf, but outside their jurisdiction.

Tomas Lopez, 21, was fired on Monday for vacating his lifeguarding zone to save a man drowning in unprotected waters 1,500 feet south of his post on Hallandale Beach, Fla.

"I knew I broke the rules," said Lopez, who ran past the buoy marking the boundary of his patrol zone to help the man.  "I told the manager, I'm fired aren't I?"

Lopez said he jumped into the water and "I double underhooked him…I was worried about the guy and his health.  He was blue."

Six of Lopez's coworkers said they would have done the same thing.  And now, they too have been 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 Brian Ritchie, 19, who was fired on Wednesday for saying he too would rescue someone outside his patrol zone.

"What we're basically supposed to do is watch them die," said Zoard Janko, 16, who also backed Lopez's decision.

A spokesman for Jeff Ellis and Associates, the aquatic safety contractor that fired Lopez, said in a statement that "We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area."

"Usually when the municipalities hire someone to [lifeguard], those organizations are not only taking on the responsibility of the job, but a lot of the liability," said Tom Gill, a spokesman for the United States Lifesaving Association.  But, he added, "It seems unfortunate that a guard would do what he's trained to do and be fired for it."

By the time Lopez arrived on the scene, other beachgoers had dragged the unconscious man ashore and started CPR.  He is recovering at Aventura Hospital, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Lopez said he didn't think about the consequences of his instinctive run "until after it was said and done."

"[We] should have jurisdiction to help someone without worrying about losing our jobs," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Lifeguard Fired for Trying to Save Drowning Man Outside of His Zone

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Florida lifeguard has been booted from his lifeguard chair for running to save a man who was floundering in the surf.

Tomas Lopez, 21, was fired by his supervisor for vacating his lifeguarding zone to save a man drowning in an unprotected area of the beach in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on Monday, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Lopez' employer is not paid to patrol the zone where the man had been in trouble.

According to the Sun Sentinel, Lopez was approached by a beachgoer who pointed out a man struggling in the water nearly 1,500 feet south of his post.

Instinctively, he ran down the beach to save him. By the time Lopez got to him, he had been pulled to shore by fellow beachgoers.

Following his rescue attempt, Lopez was let go for leaving the area he was supposed to be covering.

Jeff Ellis and Associates, a private aquatic safety contractor, is hired by the city to patrol the beaches. The company is also in charge of hiring and training the city's lifeguards.

Susan Ellis, spokeswoman for Jeff Ellis and Associates, told the Sun Sentinel that Lopez broke company rules when he left his zone, and cited "liability issues" that may have occurred as a result of Lopez leaving his designated area.

Ellis could not be reached for further comment.

Some of Lopez's friends rallied for him on his Facebook page where he had posted the Sun Sentinel's article.

"thats messed up but im proud of you for standing up like that and doing whats right. Tomas Lopez = Hero!!" one commenter wrote.

Tom Gill, spokesman for the United States Lifesaving Association, said Lopez's firing came across as a little harsh.

"It seems unfortunate that a guard would do what he's trained to do and be fired for it," he said.

Gill said that the boundaries set by Jeff Ellis and Associates were most likely set by the city of Hallandale Beach in a private contract.

"Usually when the municipalities hire someone to [lifeguard], those organizations are not only taking on the responsibility of the job, but a lot of the liability," he said.

USLA is recognized as the authority on open water lifesaving by the Red Cross, and certifies agencies and associations around the country based on their training.

Gill said Jeff Ellis and Associates has not applied for certification with USLA, and so he could not speak on the company's regulations or training.

"As far as being fired for going outside the zone, I couldn't tell you how they could make that justification," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio