Thursday 22 February 2018

Lifeguard fired -- for saving life of swimmer in trouble

Tomas Lopez, 21, fired for helping drowning man
Tomas Lopez, 21, fired for helping drowning man

Guy Adams in Florida

QUESTION: when is a lifeguard not supposed to guard life? Answer: when he's an "aquatic risk-management consultant" working for a private contractor hired to oversee public beaches in the world's most litigious country.

Tomas Lopez, a 21-year-old member of the Baywatch corps on Hallandale Beach in Florida, was at the centre of outrage in the US last night after it emerged that he had been fired for the egregious sin of saving a swimmer from drowning.

The lifeguard had been approached by a member of the public on Monday afternoon and told that a nearby beachgoer was in trouble.

He ran to where the man had been dragged from the water and was receiving CPR, then attended to him until the paramedics arrived.

But when Mr Lopez filled out an incident report for his employer, Jeff Ellis Management, he was promptly sacked.

The reason: the rescue occurred roughly 1,500 feet outside the "safety area" that Mr Lopez was officially supposed to be protecting, on a stretch of beach where signs tell people they swim at their own risk.

According to the company, Mr Lopez left them with a "liability issue". Had the rescue gone wrong or another incident occurred in the "safety area", it could have been sued.

"We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area," a company supervisor told reporters.

Mr Lopez said has no regrets. Helping the man, who remains in intensive care, "was the moral thing to do". he said.

Several colleagues agree. Seven have already resigned.

As outrage mounted last night, the firm issued a second statement, saying: "If we did something inappropriate, we will make it right." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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