HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Florida lifeguard who was fired after leaving his post to help rescue a swimmer outside his zone was offered his job back but has decided not to take it.
Tomas Lopez said he was offered an apology and the chance to return to work, but that he would prefer to pursue other opportunities instead.
"It's not out of spite or anything like that," Lopez said. "It's not I dislike the company. It's just I'd rather continue on in my life, finish my schooling, and get on with my life. And find another job."
Jeff Ellis, head of the company that provides lifeguarding services at Hallandale Beach, said Lopez was fired too quickly, and that no area of the beach was left unattended while he went to assist a distressed swimmer, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
"I am of the opinion that the supervisors acted hastily," Ellis told the newspaper.
Jeff Ellis Management has also apologized and offered to rehire two other lifeguards terminated for supporting Lopez's actions, in addition to four who resigned in support of Lopez, according to a spokesman for the City of Hallandale Beach.
Hallandale Beach Mayor Renee Crichton said it has always been the city's policy that a lifeguard must respond to an emergency inside or outside of their protected area.
"The city would like to commend the actions of Mr. Lopez and the other good Samaritans that came to the aide of our near drowning victim," he said.
Witnesses pulled the distressed man from the water, and Lopez and an off-duty nurse tended to him until paramedics arrived. Lopez was fired shortly after on grounds he'd broken a company rule by leaving his section of the beach.
Information from: South Florida Sun Sentinel, http://www.sun sentinel.com