A lifeguard at Hallandale Beach, FL, Tomas Lopez was fired from his job for saving a drowning man outside of his watch area.
Apparently concerned only with the potential for lawsuits, the private lifeguarding company Jeff Ellis and Associates fired Lopez for violating the rules by leaving his designated area. However, the company admitted that "the beach remained protected at all times,” since Lopez made sure that other lifeguards were watching the area before running off to rescue a drowning man. At 1:45pm, a beachgoer had alerted Lopez of a struggling swimmer in a section of the water with no lifeguard (sign posted, "Swim at your own risk"); Lopez then ran 1500 feet south of his assigned area to rescue the swimmer and attend to him before the ambulance arrived.
"It was the moral thing to do," Lopez told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, affirming that he would unreservedly make the same choice again.
Resonating with readers’ moral conscience, news of Lopez’s situation had been reported, circulated and shared in news sources such as the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, the Huffington Post, ABC News, CBS News, USA Today, and MSNBC (links below).
We all hope that we would have acted like Tomas Lopez. He accepted his moral responsibility—both as an ethical person, and as a recognizable emergency rescuer. Faced with an emergency, he correctly determined that leaving his post to rescue someone in immediate danger would not risk the safety of the beachgoers in his area, since his colleagues were able to temporarily take over the guard duty.
We therefore strongly urge the lifeguarding company, Jeff Ellis and Associates, to publicly apologize to Lopez for their cowardly reaction to his dutiful rescue and to recognize his exemplary behavior.
We call on the company to offer him his job back, including a promotion or monetary prize.
We advise Jeff Ellis and Associates to offer to rehire the morally conscious lifeguards who resigned in protest to this incident.
We implore that the administrative officials of Hallandale Beach, FL see to it that the aforementioned requests are fulfilled.
Regulations should encourage, not prohibit, ethical behavior. As responders certified in first-aid, lifeguards are morally responsible to render assistance to those in immediate danger, especially when their help is requested.
Children are taught that they can trust lifeguards to help them. How can a company’s regulations prohibit publicly identifiable first-aid givers and emergency rescuers from doing what they are trained to do?
We therefore demand that Jeff Ellis and Associates—and all lifeguarding companies as well—craft instructions in line with moral and ethical responsibility, and formulate proper guidelines on how to conduct a rescue past one’s designated area without jeopardizing any swimmer’s safety.
To contact the company directly: