South Florida lifeguard fired for rescue outside beach zone

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — A South Florida lifeguard who rushed to save a drowning man has been fired for leaving the section of the beach his company is paid to patrol.

The Orlando-based company, Jeff Ellis and Associates, says Tomas Lopez broke a company rule and could have put beachgoers in his section of Hallandale Beach in jeopardy.

"We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area," supervisor Susan Ellis told the Sun Sentinel. "What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do."

A beachgoer rushed to Lopez's stand Monday afternoon asking for help. Lopez said he saw a man struggling in the water south of his post and ran to his aid.

The man had been swimming along an unprotected stretch of beach, Hallandale Beach officials said Tuesday.

"It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn't going to say no," said Lopez, 21, of Davie.

By the time Lopez arrived, several witnesses had pulled the drowning man out of the water. Lopez said the man appeared to be semi-conscious and had water in his lungs.

Lopez and an off-duty nurse helped the man until the city's paramedics arrived.

After the rescue, Lopez said his boss asked him to fill out an incident report and then fired him for leaving his assigned area.

"They didn't tell me in a bad way. It was more like they were sorry, but rules are rules," Lopez said. "I couldn't believe what was happening."

The rescue was performed about 1,500 feet south of the protective boundaries set by Lopez's employer. The unprotected area has signs alerting beachgoers to swim at their own risk.

Other lifeguards watched Lopez's area during the rescue and were on the phone with 911 operators, the company said.

"The beach remained protected at all times," Ellis said.

Lopez became a lifeguard four months ago after passing the company's requirements, which include swimming and physical exams. The job pays $8.25 an hour, the lifeguards said.

Hallandale Beach began outsourcing its lifeguards in 2003 to save money. The city pays Jeff Ellis and Associates about $334,000 a year to provide four lifeguards and one supervisor at the beach year-round, said city spokesman Peter Dobens.

The company also provides lifeguard services at the city's pools as part of the contract. Its contract expires this year.

The man Lopez rushed to save, whose name was not released due to privacy laws, remained hospitalized Tuesday in intensive care, Dobens said.

Two other lifeguards have quit in protest of Lopez's firing. One of them, Szilard Janko, told the newspaper, "What was he supposed to do? Watch a man drown?"

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Comments » 58

Here4Now writes:

That's friggin' cold! If he were my son, I'd be very proud of his decision. I hope Jeff Ellis drowns. Then his corpse gets chewed by a school of sharks. Then pelicans eat whatever crappy remains.

Here4Now writes:

Psycho Susan too!

savethewhalz writes:

Great PR for Jeff Ellis and Associates. Likely students of the defunct Joseph Goebbel's Business Academy.

Opinionated writes:

Darned if you do and darned if you dont.

Captian_Cataracts writes:

Are these people serious?

Let someone drown & die because THEIR liabilty insurance only covers saving lives in a given stretch of beach?

This is a perfect example of all that is wrong with US today.

itsawonderfullife writes:

in response to johnwaynegacy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wonderful idea!

LGoldstein writes:

I feel sorry for Mr. Lopez getting fired. Bottom line, he broke company rules. What if someone drowned on Lopez's turf while he was preoccupied saving a life. Hard to imagine.

light writes:

in response to LGoldstein:

I feel sorry for Mr. Lopez getting fired. Bottom line, he broke company rules. What if someone drowned on Lopez's turf while he was preoccupied saving a life. Hard to imagine.

Yeah, he broke company rules. He also saved a life. He did the right thing.

baldygrandpa writes:

Score another one for privatization of essential services. Remind me how well the private electric companies are doing to restore power to customers in W.Va. They have had decades to prepare by putting utilities underground but chose profit over service and now their customers are paying for their short sightedness.

OP writes:

I remember common sense, I wonder whatever happened to good ol' common sense?

tampacoco writes:

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken , And in this case he thought he might be saving a life at the risk he would lose his job and did. I hope somebody offers this man a job because he cares enough to put others before himself, I would be proud to call this man my son for doing the right thing. I don't know if to many folks would of left their post and not try and save a life for fear of losing their job. I understand he was hired to do a job and protect that area ,But when somebody comes up to you what do you do? I think he did the right thing at a split second decision to do something.

woods311 writes:

"The job pays $8.25 an hour".

He responded to an emergency. With all the publicity, he will do well.
Remember the school bus monitor?
Last time I saw she was up 600 large and counting. Of course in the land of billions and trillions in debt, that isn't much.

LanceF writes:

The most disturbing part of this article is that the city pays over $330,000.00 to outsource 4 lifeguards and a supervisor in order to "save money". I am not sure who is doing the math but if the lifeguards make 8.25 per hour that means the supervisor is making over $200,000.00. Although one has to wonder how much Jeff Ellis and associates are profiting. And everyone wonders why our taxes are sky high and our cities bankrupt. What private company would pay $334,000.00 for $90,000.00 in services? I hope every resident of hallandale votes out the current officials and lodges complaints with city hall.

jerseyguy writes:

Absolutely outrageous!!! Somebody hire this guy please!

npz530 writes:

Thomas Lopez, you are awesome. Jeff Ellis and Associates, you are a perfect example of what's wrong in this world. Go to hell for firing this guy.

tampacoco writes:

in response to npz530:

Thomas Lopez, you are awesome. Jeff Ellis and Associates, you are a perfect example of what's wrong in this world. Go to hell for firing this guy.

+1

sharks2009 writes:

Good for you Thomas Lopez! You were raised well!

TiredoftheBS writes:

He should have let the dumbasc drown who refused to follow the rules.

The moron put both their lives in jeopardy.

Lopez is a hero though!

Ykpk writes:

Instead of getting properly rewarded for his heroic actions, Mr. Lopez has lost his job. Shame on Jeff Ellis and Associates for clearly missing the big picture: A man's life was saved because of Mr. Lopez while his area of the beach was fully covered by other lifeguards. NOTE TO ELLIS: REHIRE MR. LOPEZ OR LOSE YOUR LUCRATIVE CONTRACT!

mmbedard writes:

This kid deserves a bonus not to be fired ... Hold your head high, Tomas.

BlackCat writes:

Only in America.

DreamflyMarketing writes:

This is ridiculous. Do those corporate folks know what they sound like? Idiotic comes to mind. Let's just let someone drown...yea that sound good. My goodness!!!

squall_line writes:

in response to LGoldstein:

I feel sorry for Mr. Lopez getting fired. Bottom line, he broke company rules. What if someone drowned on Lopez's turf while he was preoccupied saving a life. Hard to imagine.

hope next time it is someone you know. I will offer my condolences, but, you know, rules are rules.

Texas writes:

Just another problem with outsourcing....lifeguards on the beach should rescue people. Like the old fikre departments..if you did not have the decal they let you burn. This is why the Government has to control some thiings.

zumachris writes:

You get wat you pay for. Ellis is a a businessman and only cares about making money. Government lifeguards would not worry so much about being out of bounds when a life is at stake.

paradise52 writes:

in response to LGoldstein:

I feel sorry for Mr. Lopez getting fired. Bottom line, he broke company rules. What if someone drowned on Lopez's turf while he was preoccupied saving a life. Hard to imagine.

Saving a life trumps any company rule.

roadhouse writes:

in response to LanceF:

The most disturbing part of this article is that the city pays over $330,000.00 to outsource 4 lifeguards and a supervisor in order to "save money". I am not sure who is doing the math but if the lifeguards make 8.25 per hour that means the supervisor is making over $200,000.00. Although one has to wonder how much Jeff Ellis and associates are profiting. And everyone wonders why our taxes are sky high and our cities bankrupt. What private company would pay $334,000.00 for $90,000.00 in services? I hope every resident of hallandale votes out the current officials and lodges complaints with city hall.

If the lifeguards were government employees, the cost of the same program would probably be in excess of $500,000....

MisterK writes:

I think the issues at Jeff Ellis and Associates go way beyond "liability issues".

sailing writes:

in response to LanceF:

The most disturbing part of this article is that the city pays over $330,000.00 to outsource 4 lifeguards and a supervisor in order to "save money". I am not sure who is doing the math but if the lifeguards make 8.25 per hour that means the supervisor is making over $200,000.00. Although one has to wonder how much Jeff Ellis and associates are profiting. And everyone wonders why our taxes are sky high and our cities bankrupt. What private company would pay $334,000.00 for $90,000.00 in services? I hope every resident of hallandale votes out the current officials and lodges complaints with city hall.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

raider43 writes:

in response to LGoldstein:

I feel sorry for Mr. Lopez getting fired. Bottom line, he broke company rules. What if someone drowned on Lopez's turf while he was preoccupied saving a life. Hard to imagine.

LG, Having been a WSI (Water Safety Instructor) and Lifeguard for many years, I'm sure there is a plan in place in the event a lifeguard has to leave his/her post to assist someone in need. If this is not the case, everyone on that beach or any other beach and pool that this company is contracted to protect is in great danger. Regardless if the lifeguard had to save someone in his/her area or if he/she had to run somewhere else, there should have been backups in place to cover his/her area. This is just another case of corporate greed, putting business ahead of people.

SandnSurf writes:

in response to jimslade48:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Did you seriously type that for all to read? People have been using the word "folks" for as long as I have been alive to hear it and Obama had nothing to do with it.
Do you enjoy throwing schtuff against the wall just to see what sticks? YOU sir are the problem, now shut up and sit down before you hurt yourself cause we all know you are a buffoon!!!

IrishFan writes:

in response to LGoldstein:

I feel sorry for Mr. Lopez getting fired. Bottom line, he broke company rules. What if someone drowned on Lopez's turf while he was preoccupied saving a life. Hard to imagine.

Did you even read the article? "Other lifeguards watched Lopez's area during the rescue and were on the phone with 911 operators, the company said.

"The beach remained protected at all times," Ellis said.

As for the county saving money by outsourcing, I have to agree with LanceF. The county is getting ripped off overpaying for this service, they truly are morons. Typical government thinking.

garyOfTheGulf writes:

Jeff Ellis Should be fired and a new firm hired!! Thats my 2 cents worth!!

OP writes:

in response to BlackCat:

Only in America.

Only, this should never happen in America. This is the sort of bureaucratic mindset reminiscent of the Soviet Union. America has been famous for ingenuity and action; but that all went away long ago, now America is a bout hurt feelings and lawsuits.

karenleighton writes:

This story should let all the tourist know. The state of Florida WILL LET YOU DIE. money comes first.......Life guards are only for looking at not doing......this is probably all over Florida beaches......Good job Mr. Lopez.

PeopleSpeak writes:

So many problems here!

1) Delray Beach outsourced their lifeguard duties to "save money." What did this result in? Perhaps a 2-3% cost savings while a HUGE chunk of local employee wages have become profit for some schlock outsourcing company while local employees (now private without benefits/job security/etc) are minimum wage slaves.

2) The company the city outsourced to has two locations, one 30 miles outside of Houston, the other about 10 miles outside of Orlando.

3) The company (JEFF ELLIS & ASSOCIATES, INC.) operates out of peoples' homes! Because... it's just some leech named Jeff Ellis that hired a few minimum wage lifeguards. There is no real office!!

The city could have picked a more professional organization, they could have picked a LOCAL organization, and best yet they could have simply kept the jobs in the city or in the very least shifted to 1099 lifeguards.

PeopleSpeak writes:

Sorry, that was Hallandale, not Delray.

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

in response to paradise52:

Saving a life trumps any company rule.

Indeed and I am sure that the East Coast attorneys in this instance would not have taken any potential liability case if one had happened, eh?

Now the next tale is Mother Goose!

Our society is starting to feed on itself led by the grand gobbler in DC!

Hurry NOvember!

romneygate writes:

in response to Damyankee:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

A really "intelligent conclusion"!

romneygate writes:

in response to Damyankee:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stick with your Ex Lax.

romneygate writes:

in response to wonderful:

Indeed and I am sure that the East Coast attorneys in this instance would not have taken any potential liability case if one had happened, eh?

Now the next tale is Mother Goose!

Our society is starting to feed on itself led by the grand gobbler in DC!

Hurry NOvember!

Words from the chicken coop!

Jarvis (Inactive) writes:

Modern Republican America at work. GW and Dick Cheney would be proud!

SeeFuture writes:

Glad he helped the man. Imagine if he had stopped at his "boundary" like a dog with a shock collar and watched the man drown?

straighttalkinnaples writes:

in response to woods311:

"The job pays $8.25 an hour".

He responded to an emergency. With all the publicity, he will do well.
Remember the school bus monitor?
Last time I saw she was up 600 large and counting. Of course in the land of billions and trillions in debt, that isn't much.

Understand he took about 30 minutes to assist the man who left in an ambulance.

Since he makes $8.25 an hour, how about he forfiets $4.13 to allow the company to make its point, and we call it even?

tampacoco writes:

To bad it wasnt his Boss's family , I bet it would of been different then ! Hope he finds a better Boss.

leneggs writes:

in response to Damyankee:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That sounds more like a republican decision....MUST obey the rules no matter what.

anotherPOV writes:

in response to leneggs:

That sounds more like a republican decision....MUST obey the rules no matter what.

Leneggs, don't be ridiculous, name ONE rule a Republican has ever followed. Well, except for the one about sliding you feet into the next stall to say hello.

ZoomZoom writes:

Poor Kid ! He deserves better than this for saving a life !
He did RIGHT in my opinion !
Hold your head up high and go on with your life !
You're going to do fine.

tampacoco writes:

in response to SandnSurf:

Did you seriously type that for all to read? People have been using the word "folks" for as long as I have been alive to hear it and Obama had nothing to do with it.
Do you enjoy throwing schtuff against the wall just to see what sticks? YOU sir are the problem, now shut up and sit down before you hurt yourself cause we all know you are a buffoon!!!

+1

Sane_in_Florida (Inactive) writes:

I guess NDN may be behind the curve on this but Erin Burnett Out Front has Tomas and Mr. Ellis on right now and Mr. Ellis said that he was not aware of the firing until two days ago and offered Mr. Tomas his job back this afternoon, as well as the other life guards who quit in protest. Mr. Tomas declined.

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