Lifeguard Who Was Fired for Saving a Person's Life Offered Keys to the City

By Scott Sarvay

July 10, 2012 Updated Jul 10, 2012 at 8:45 AM EDT

Hallandale Beach, FL (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - That young lifeguard who was fired after leaving his designated zone to rescue a drowning man is now getting the full hero's treatment.

Officials from Hallendale Beach presented Tomas Lopez with the keys to the city for his heroic act.

Lopez came to the rescue of a 19-year-old who was struggling in the waters last week.

Monday was the first time the two had seen each other since the rescue on July 2nd.

One city official believes that Lopez definitely made the right decision.

Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Keith London says, “The proverbial line in the sand, it just doesn't make sense. I would have done the same thing. Somebody screaming 'help help,' you're not gonna think about it, you're gonna go help."

Tomas Lopez has since been offered his job back, but he politely declined.

He says he plans to study business administration at a local community college.

A 21-year-old lifeguard was terminated from his job on Monday after saving a swimmer’s life.

Tomas Lopez said that a beachgoer rushed over to his lifeguard station, alerting him that a man was drowning.

“I was on the stand, and a guest told me someone was drowning and that people were screaming,” Lopez said. “I started running in that direction.”

The problem was that the drowning man was some 1,500 feet outside the company's protection zone in an area where signs warn visitors to swim at their own risk.

Even though he knew it was outside the company protection zone, Lopez headed to the scene. When he arrived, the beachgoers had already pulled the man out of the water.

A nurse at the beach tended to the victim until emergency medics arrived and rushed him off to a hospital.

After the near-drowning, Lopez said he was asked by his supervisor to complete an incident report.

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

Lopez employment was terminated for violating company policy.

Since his firing, several other lifeguards have quit in protest.

"I'm not going to sit there and watch someone drown.” Szilard Janko a lifeguard said. “We’re lifeguards."

Lopez said he started the $8.25-an-hour job four months ago and had hoped to continue working there while attending college.

Later on Thursday, Lopez was offered his job back. but says he won't be taking it back because he feels the reasoning for his termination was "ridiculous."

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