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

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