Update: While putting this piece to post, word has circulated that Tomas Lopez has been offered the opportunity to come back to work in his lifeguard position. It still doesn’t change the fit of absurd thought that resulted in his firing in the first place.
When you’re a lifeguard, you’re given a list of rules and regulations that you must follow–that may include not leaving your contracted post, regardless of an individual whose life is being threatened just outside your jurisdiction. Such is the argument of one Jeff Ellis and Susan Ellis, who operate and supervise a Florida beaches lifeguard service. These individuals are responsible for the dismissal of Tomas Lopez, a lifeguard who responded to the plea of beach goers, after a man was reported to be drowning in a nearby, swim at your own risk area.
According to Jeff Ellis:
We are not a fire-rescue operation. We are strictly a lifeguard organization—we limit what we do to the protected swimming zones that we’ve agreed to service.
According to Susan Ellis:
We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area. 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.
According to Tomas Lopez, who rendered aid to the individual until paramedics arrived:
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. I ran out to do the job I was trained to do—I didn’t think about it at all.
Apparently, Lopez should have made the best legal decision in the heat of the moment, as opposed to the lifesaving decision and allowed the victim to fend for himself.
It says a lot about the world we live in, when business contracts and words like liability might trump the saving of a life, regardless of circumstance. Regardless, Lopez was fired for his actions. Two of his fellow guards quit in protest, and now, after a windstorm of criticism, the incident is being reviewed.