A Florida lifeguard who ran to rescue a drowning man has been fired - after he went outside his assigned zone to save him.
Two other lifeguards have quit in protest over the treatment of Tomas Lopez, 21, who argued he was just doing the job he was trained to do.
Lopez was sitting at his post on Hallandale Beach, Florida on Monday afternoon when a beach-goer rushed over asking for his help.
He looked south of his post and saw a man struggling in the water, in an area that was not watched by lifeguards. A sign in the area warns people to swim there at their own risk. 'It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn't going to say no,' Lopez told the Sun Sentinel.
The rescue took place around 1,500 feet out of the boundaries set by Lopez's employer, Jeff Ellis and Associates. By the time he reached the area, the man had been pulled from the water.
'I ran out to do the job I was trained to do. I didn't think about it at all'
Tomas Lopez. The man remains in intensive care at Aventura Hospital.
Lopez's boss then asked him to fill out an incident report - before promptly firing him for stepping outside his designated area.
'They didn't tell me in a bad way,' Lopez said. 'It was more like they were sorry, but rules are rules. I couldn't believe what was happening.
'I ran out to do the job I was trained to do. I didn't think about it at all.'
Lopez has been a lifeguard for four months, after passing swimming and physical exams.
Jeff Ellis and Associates, which is based in Orlando, has been providing lifeguards for the city's beaches and pools since 2003.
Company officials said Lopez broke a rule that could've put beachgoers in his designated area at risk and the firm could have been sued.
'What he did was his own decision,' supervisor Susan Ellis said. 'He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.'
Officials said other lifeguards watched over Lopez's area during the rescue, and assured the beach was protected at all times.
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