A Florida beach lifeguard saw a man drowning in the water, ran to save him, got him medical attention, and when he was finished, got fired. On Monday, Tomas Lopez radioed his fellow lifeguards that he was leaving his lifeguard chair to save the drowning man. Reports state they covered his post and Lopez did what he calls his moral duty and saved the drowning man.
But the drowning man, unnamed, who later was taken to a local hospital, had been swimming in an area of the beach that has a small sign and a green flag that indicate it is unprotected and swimmers swim at their own risk.
Welcome to privatization in America. The Broward County, South Florida city of Hallandale Beach to save money nine years ago hired the Orlando-based company of Jeff Ellis and Associates to manage its beaches and pools. Tomas Lopez’s supervisor immediately fired him from his $8.25/hour job as soon as he returned from saving the man. Jeff Ellis and Associates claimed that by venturing into an area they were not contracted to cover there could have been liability issues.
Several of Lopez’s fellow lifeguards have since quit in protest.
This is why privatization of government services is wrong. Had Lopez done his “job” by the book a man might have died. What happens is a well-intentioned swimmer starts out in the contracted area but loses control and gets into the un-contracted area? And is the fired Lopez now eligible for unemployment? Not to mention, paying a trained lifeguard $8.25 an hour is pretty ridiculous.
“It was the moral thing to do. I would never pick a job over my morals,” the 21-year old Lopez, said, adding, “I ran out to do the job I was trained to do. I didn’t think about it at all,” he told the Orlando Sun-Sentinel:
“It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn’t going to say no,” he said.
Company officials said the rescue took place about 1,500 feet south of the company’s protective boundaries. The unprotected area has signs alerting beachgoers to swim at their own risk.
By the time Lopez arrived, several witnesses had pulled the unidentified man out of the water. Lopez said the man appeared semi-conscious and had water in his lungs.
Lopez said he and a off-duty nurse attended to the man until the city’s paramedics arrived.
The man, whose identity was not released because of medical privacy laws, was taken to Aventura Hospital, where he remained in the intensive care unit Tuesday, said city spokesman Peter Dobens.
After the incident, Lopez said his boss asked him to fill out an incident report. His boss 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.”
An official at Jeff Ellis and Associates emailed a local Florida news station and said they were reviewing the firing.
Video via Huffington Post and WNBC.
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