Lifeguard fired after rescuing swimmer

A lifeguard who was fired after he left his section of a Florida beach to rescue a man who was drowning has rejected the chance to return to his old job.

Twenty-one-year-old Tomas Lopez was on patrol on Hallandale Beach, just north of Miami, when informed a swimmer was struggling in an area of the beach which was unguarded.

However, his bosses claimed he had broken company rules and could have put other swimmers at risk.

"He was having a lot of trouble breathing," Mr Lopez said. "I wasn't going to say no.

"I think it's ridiculous, honestly, that a sign is what separates someone from being safe and not safe," Mr Lopez told CBS television.

"At that point I knew I was going to be fired. I knew I had broken the rule. In those cases, we are supposed to call 911 and hope they get there in time.

"I have no doubts I did the right thing. I believe I did what was right, and that if someone needs help you're going to go help them, regardless if you're a lifeguard or not."

Lifeguard Szilard Janko told CNN he guarded Lopez's zone while he performed the rescue.

"They let him go after he performed the rescue," Mr Janko said. "They fired him basically on the spot."

Three of Mr Lopez's colleagues resigned in protest and although Mr Lopez has since been offered his job back, he has no plans to return to work.

Jeff Ellis Management, the company for which Lopez worked, originally said lifeguards cannot go beyond the area they are covering.

A company supervisor had originally told WPTV: "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."

But Jeff Ellis told CNN last night: "Clearly, he should not have been terminated for what had occurred. I know that he has tried to do the right thing."

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