WASHINGTON - A young lifeguard in Florida has lost his job after rescuing a drowning man in a section of beach he was not assigned to patrol, local news media reported Wednesday.
Tomas Lopez, 21, was manning his post on Hallandale Beach, north of Miami, on Monday afternoon when a beach-goer alerted him to a swimmer struggling in an "unprotected" part of the beach.
"It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn't going to say no," said Lopez, quoted by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper and WFOR television on their websites (www.sun-sentinel.com and miami.cbslocal.com).
The unidentified man was rescued, then rushed to hospital where he remains in intensive care. But when Lopez went to file an incident report, he was fired for going 500 yards (meters) out of 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."
"We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area," explained a supervisor for the private contractor that supplies lifeguards for Hallandale Beach, a popular destination for Canadian winter holiday makers.
"What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do."
No longer in a job that pays $8.25 (6.60 euros) an hour, Lopez said he would do what he did again if he had to. "It was the moral thing to do," he said. "I would never pick a job over my morals."
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