Last Updated:August 19 @ 12:25 pm

A Sign of the Times? Lifeguard Rescues Man, Gets Fired

By Bobby Eberle

More and more often, regulations and fear of litigation seem to rule the day. The two are certainly trumping any common sense that was once held by seemingly intelligent people. Just check out the case of a life guard who journeyed outside his jurisdiction to help save a drowning man. His reward? He was immediately fired.

As reported in the Associated Press story on GOPUSA, "a South Florida lifeguard who rushed to save a drowning man has been fired for leaving the section of the beach his company is paid to patrol."

The Orlando-based company, Jeff Ellis and Associates, says Tomas Lopez broke a company rule and could have put beachgoers in his section of Hallandale Beach in jeopardy.

"We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area," supervisor Susan Ellis told the Sun Sentinel (http://sunsent.nl/R71CCy). "What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do."

A beachgoer rushed to Lopez's stand Monday afternoon asking for help. Lopez said he saw a man struggling in the water south of his post and ran to his aid.

The man had been swimming along an unprotected stretch of beach, Hallandale Beach officials said Tuesday.

"It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn't going to say no," said Lopez, 21, of Davie.

Several others helped drag the man out of the water. Lopez and an off-duty nurse helped administer aid until paramedics arrived.

After the rescue, Lopez said his boss asked him to fill out an incident report and then fired him for leaving 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."

The firing has generated an uproar with Lopez's fellow lifeguards, and several of them have quit in protest. Here is what Lopez had to say about the situation:


What in the world has happend to common sense? It's not so common any more. Should Lopez have just stayed at his post? What if the man had drowned?

Perhaps the company -- Jim Ellis & Associates -- is having second thoughts about their actions. As reported by Fox News, the company issued the following statement:

"Before making any official statement, we are trying to get in touch with Tomas & everyone else who has quit because of this. We want to hear everyone's story before determining the right course of action. We are concerned with the safety of our beachgoers, as well as the safety of our staff. After interviewing everyone, if we find there was any problem with our decision making ... we will try to right any wrongs."

Try to right any wrongs? Yes, it's great to get the full story before taking actions, but that is exactly what the company did NOT do. They fired Lopez on the spot.

What's worse... the company has a written policy that basically states, "Hey... if the guy is outside our bounds, let him drown, because you will be fired if you try to help." What kind of policy is that? I'll tell you what kind of policy it is... It's "Hey employees... you save our butt, before you try to save others."

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UPDATE: It's amazing what exposure can do! This story is still developing, but it appears that the lifeguard has been offered his job back. Fox News reports:

Tomas Lopez, 21, who was sacked by employer Jeff Ellis & Associates after his heroics Monday at Hallendale Beach, 18 miles north of Miami, should never have been fired, Jeff Ellis told the Sun-Sentinel Thursday.

"I am of the opinion that the supervisors acted hastily, " Ellis said. "It was not the appropriate course of action to take," he said.

The story said it's not clear what will happen to the other lifeguards who quit in support of Lopez...

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48 Comments

  1. genesalComment by genesal
    July 5, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

    Isn’t there a reason Disneyland was put in Florida and LaLa Land?

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    • johnsnareComment by johnsnare
      July 5, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

      Can you picture the lifeguard standing on his platform, shouting to the drowning poor *******, i cannot come and save you, I must protect the beach people in my section, so hang in there, help is on the way. Wow. Talk about political Correctness, B.S. They are swimming in it in South Florida.

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    • genesalComment by genesal
      July 5, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

      No, I can’t.

      Besides if someone, in his section, was drowning and he went out in the water to save them then his area would automatically become unprotected by Jim Ellis & Associates’ own rules. They don’t seem to know how to run a life saving business and should go underwater.

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    • genesalComment by genesal
      July 5, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

      And the life guard who’s area Lopez had to go to didn’t get fired? Why would Lopez have to go to someone else’s area in the first place? Where were they or was it the lifeguard company didn’t cover that area and so anyone swimming in that area deserve to drown? Something smells.

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    • joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
      July 5, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

      genesal, Lopez went to an unprotected beach. There was no lifeguard there.

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    • ClarkCComment by ClarkC
      July 5, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

      johnsnare: “political correctness” has nothing to do with this story. Using that phrase for every situation under the sun that makes no sense to us robs the term of its meaning. Political Correctness is the suppression of any truth that does not contribute to leftist goals of equality. If science proves that men and women think differently, that does not help the cause of feminism or the leftist claim that the only reason we don’t have more female scientists is that females are discriminated against; therefore, the truth must be suppressed (google “Lawrence Summers” for an example). If research shows that blacks are NOT discriminated against in the writing of mortgage loans, then that truth must be suppressed. And so on. There is no suppression of truth in this case; there is just the typical fear of lawsuits by some company.

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  2. 1000tourmelinesComment by 1000tourmelines
    July 5, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

    From a purely crass p.o.v. – Didn’t it cross their little minds that having their lifeguard ignore a drowning man, due to company policy, would leave them open to a lawsuit, too?

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  3. goforit7Comment by goforit7
    July 5, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    If the poor slob hadn’t done what he did & the guy drowned, I can already hear old “Jack McCoy’s” favorite “Law & Order” charge….Depraved Indifference homocide/manslaughter/whatever and don’t forget the press & half the world making a total goat out of him….Then the lawsuits………No way this guy could win. Fired if he helps, pilloried if he doesn’t.

    Whatever municipality did the outsourcing of the lifeguard function didn’t do such a good job. Has to be a really poorly done contract to permit this. Actually, it’s the company that I’d like to see fired. I’ll bet the contract prevents it. Nonetheless, they should be named and soundly villified.

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  4. teecee302Comment by teecee302
    July 5, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    As a 35 yr. Paramedic and former Life Guard, my opinion is that he did what he was trained to do, and met a basic and reasonable expectation of what the public expects. Saving lives knows no bounds. Kudos to Tomas Lopez.
    On the Fire Dept., we empower our Medics to make life and death decisions every day, and we expect them to do it. I would have fired him for NOT acting. Send him to me. We’ll hire him! We are always looking for, and need, people like him! The whole world does. Well… except maybe Jim Ellis & Assoc. (what kind of name is THAT for a Life Guard outfit anyway?)

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    • vComment by v
      July 5, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

      I hope that you actually mean that…I personally think it is a great idea! He has already shown common sense and the ability to think and act under pressure!
      I’m sure Fox can put anyone that has a job for this youngman in touch with him and the others that quit or were fired with him!
      It might encourage other young people to do the right thing!

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  5. LAPhilComment by LAPhil
    July 5, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

    It’s good to see this man getting support from his fellow lifeguards, among others, for doing what was totally the right thing. What did the company want him to do, let the guy drown? Unbelievable, the way “the rules” are allowed to trump everything else, even human life.

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    • RobertRComment by RobertR
      July 5, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

      Everything now is rules, more rules and even more rules. Common sense left the workplace and government a long time ago. We need to tear up the rule books and start over. I talk to people who are employed with Fortune 500 companies and they are complaining about the same thing. It’s all about jumping through hoops and nobody cares about the quality or the performance as long as the rules are followed. Hopefully enough will go bankrupt to figure this out.

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  6. joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
    July 5, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

    Is Tomas a hero? Absolutely. Did he do the right thing? Definitely.

    But you have to consider the company’s position as well. In this litigious world we live in they could not financially afford to leave Tomas’ section of the beach unprotected. If someone needed help on the protected stretch of beach and the lifeguard was off helping someone on the unprotected beach, there would be Hell — and a legal judgement — to pay.

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    • teecee302Comment by teecee302
      July 5, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

      Point well taken Joelinpdx. However, a good boss, supervisor, or even “adminstrator” would have evaluated the entire situation before passing this judgement unless an ego hadn’t been fed yet that day. This was a huge “teaching moment” opportunity that was missed for the young life guard, as well as all other employees. But the knee jerk reaction because of litigation that “might” happen, and no situation offered itself during the rescue that would warrant any litigation, cost them not only a quick thinking employee, but several others from the sounds of it. Much like the author states, what has happened to common sense?
      If an ambulance is out on a call, does that mean their district is unprotected? No. It simply means another one will respond in their territory until they are back in service. There may be a delay for the next available rescue unit, of which there are plenty. Should the Fire Dept. be sued becasue their ambulance was helping someone else when you happen to have your heart attack or crash? (nobody ever called 911 because they done somethin smart… like swimming at their own risk) Guard towers are typically evenly spaced throughout the beaches. I would hope that Ellis & Assoc. have invested in the correct technology or methods for their guards so that the other guards know that one is going in the water on a rescue attempt. Tower light, 2-way radio, tower flag deployed up etc. What if HE doesn’t make it out fo the water? Who is going to save him?

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    • someoneComment by someone
      July 5, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

      God protected the beach while a life was saved on another. No harm done except to the hero in the story. We can’t live on what if’s. That is fear and “perfect love casts out fear.”

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    • snattlerakeComment by snattlerake
      July 5, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

      The company’s position in that area should maybe be to hire more lifeguards if one isn’t enough. It appears they are only concerned about their bottom line, not anyone’s safety…

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    • thecitizenComment by thecitizen
      July 7, 2012 @ 8:25 am

      A GOOD lifeguard operation would provide an immediate response ‘team’ to the unmanned tower: 1 person to take the tower and guard the area until the rescue is completed and the guard doing the rescuing returns to the tower, and, 3-4 additional guards to enter the water and assist with the actual rescue in progress.

      Whether Ellis provides a service like the above is unknown but if he doesn’t – he should. One victim can suddenly turn in to 2 or 3 or more. People go into shock, have heart attacks or stop breathing – in the water. Etc., etc. In a rescue situation things can go beyond critically urgent in the blink of an eye and beyond the human abilities of a single rescuer and s/he needs – HELP!

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  7. Ward EldredComment by Ward Eldred
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

    there is a lot we don’t know here.could he call for back up to cover his area.could someone else reach the guy in trouble?we’re quick to judge when we want to do what WE want.teams work because each one does his job!

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    • ClarkCComment by ClarkC
      July 5, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

      When someone is drowning, you don’t have time to call for backup, much less for backup to arrive.

      “Could someone else reach the guy in trouble?” No, because there was no lifeguard assigned to the area of the drowning man. That is why the article says that he was swimming in an “unprotected stretch of beach.”

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  8. OldpatriotComment by Oldpatriot
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    This is so absurd it doesn’t even warrant a comment.

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  9. someoneComment by someone
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    Man’s laws are not above God’s laws. This young man should be honored as a hero. I am sure he is in the eye’s of the man he saved. God bless him!

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  10. Rich MoneyComment by Rich Money
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    I am uncertain where to even start with this foolishness. Let’s see if I got this straight; a lifeguard, whose job it is to protect swimmers and other beach-goers from accidental drowning, saves the life of a man that was drowning, and what does he get? A medal? NO! A key to the city? NO! He gets a PINK SLIP! FIRED! And why? Because the swimmer was swimming OUTSIDE of that lifeguard’s ZONE! Are you kidding? Because the swimmer happened to be outside the cone of responsibility Mr. Lopez had, the lifeguard was supposed to do what? Ignore the emergency and let him drown? Common sense may have finally passed away in this country. Could you imagine the outcry if the lifeguard had sat and done nothing and allowed the man to drown? I am appalled that the company’s first concern was for liability and not for people and their safety. A man is going home to his family that wouldn’t have if Mr. Lopez hadn’t demonstrated bravery and initiative to save him. Mr. Lopez acted exactly as his training taught him to act, and for that he’s on the unemployment line? The company involved needs to really rethink this. Any rule that requires an employee to stand idly by and watch someone else die when that employee has it in their power to possibly prevent the death is a bad and stupid rule. Expecting a lifeguard to not be a lifeguard just because the drowning is happening in an inconvenient place is ridiculous, and firing him for saving the man’s life borders on criminal.

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    • rustypatComment by rustypat
      July 5, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

      Your comment @ being appalled by the company’s concern for liability actually has a twist to it.

      If the lifeguard had not helped save the man (citing company policy as the reason) after being requested to do so … a subsequent “wrongful death” (or other) suit against the company would have likely followed, had the man drowned.

      Hmmmm, liability concerns, maybe … but if you think about it, they lifeguard saved the company’s butt from a serious legal suit, with or without a settlement.

      Just a lack of good thinking … which is far too prevalent these days. The lifeguard did the “Right Thing” and saved both the man and the company’s behind in the process.

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    • Rich MoneyComment by Rich Money
      July 6, 2012 @ 7:08 am

      Rusty:
      You are right of course. I didn’t go into that end of it because I was more angry that they considered potential liability more important than human life.

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  11. Johnny RippsComment by Johnny Ripps
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

    The measure of a true hero is not between two sticks in the sand, it includes the entire beach where a threat exist! This young mans actions describe who he is….actions speak
    when words fail .

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  12. effwingerComment by effwinger
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    Someone will come forward and give this kid a good job. If I were still running my business, there would have already been an offer. I found it rare and loved hiring people that could actually think for themselves and act accordingly…..

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  13. zyppComment by zypp
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

    Responding to a swimmer in distress leaves that post unattended, regardless of the location of the swimmer. The employer may have the legal right to fire him, but thank God he did not lose his moral courage. If we become a nation of people who cheapen the value of human life, we are in trouble. (Oops! To late by several decades.)

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  14. Bobby EberleComment by Bobby Eberle
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    Hey friends! Check out the update. Perhaps common sense doesn’t rule the day, but public pressure did! :)

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    • Bayushi ZeroComment by Bayushi Zero
      July 5, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

      Thanks for the update! So many news articles go unresolved over time, and I’m always pleased to see updates provided!

      Quite pleased to see that Tomas got his job back! Seems like a great kid, doing something I could not (I can’t swim very well).

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  15. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    Not just this ‘company’. Many years ago, about 20, I demonstrated a rescue beacon to the Forest Service employees in Kalispell, Montana. They tested it, and loved it. Forest Service management beaurocrats denied its employment. The reason? We might have to save others if we allowed its usage.

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  16. thedoveComment by thedove
    July 5, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

    The ultimate in zero tolerance: “You broke a rule, therefore you’re fired.”

    The fact is there are many sides to this story. The company has a contract to protect a given area of the beach, said area having been determined by the city; the public is warned there are no lifeguards on certain sections of the beach; the man chose to swim in an unguarded area.

    Of course he should have done what he did, it was obviously the right decision, and the company should have looked into things before taking any action. I think if cooler heads had prevailed he would not have been fired, and I understand he has gotten his job back. Perhaps the man who nearly drowned will learn a lesson and swim in protected areas in the future; but, perhaps not. It’s called “personal responsibility,” and it’s gone the way of common sense.

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  17. tygerpaw25Comment by tygerpaw25
    July 5, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

    Reminds me of a time my father was on a job and got challenged by a member of another union because of the tool he was using. He was what is referred to as a floor mechanic. He installed floor coverings. We use trowels to spread the asphalt cement. A rep from the mason’s union came over and asked for his union card which my father refused. After some not so polite discussion, the man left and came back with the job foreman who asked dad what was going on. Dad explained, the other man agreed, and dad said he belonged to the carpenters union which floor mechanics in this part of the country do. Since this happened over 40 years ago, the foreman still had common sense. Turned to the other man and told him to get off the job and told dad if he had any other problems he would call the police and have the other person arrested. Dad had no other problems. I guess it took an intelligent man to tell the difference between the type of trowel dad used and that of a mason.

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  18. sunnybluesComment by sunnyblues
    July 5, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    Can you imagine the public outcry if this lifeguard, upon being summoned by the beach goers said, “Gee, I’m sorry, that is out of my boundary for saving people. Wish I could help but rules are rules.” Honestly, the lifeguard was not the one who should be fired. Glad they buckled to public pressure, though. You see. Public outcry works. We the People do have power to change this country and fire the numb nuts who are running it into the ground. Speak up.

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  19. threelees1Comment by threelees1
    July 5, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

    Common sense isn’t so common.

    If I were responsible for public safety for the beaches down there, I would get rid of the company that has such a dangerous policy and hire the lifeguards directly… with my first hired employee being the young man that was fired.

    Had that lifeguard not done what he did, that company would be in deep doo doo legally, and it would look in the media even more stupid than it does now.

    Let’s see what the company does to make things right… like fire the supervisor that fired the lifeguard, and hire him and the lifeguards that quit in protest and that were also fired for answering the supervisor’s question the “wrong” way.

    The lifeguards displayed maturity, wisdom and courage and should be rewarded, not fired. Ask the supervisor what he would have done if it was his son in trouble and the lifeguard did not go to the rescue.

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  20. Barbara HedgesComment by Barbara Hedges
    July 5, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

    I hope someone comes forward and gives this hero a good paying job. Also those who quit in protest of them firing him. He can look at himself in the mirror and feel good about saving a persons life. What did they want? Him to sit and watch the person drown and die.

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  21. rexriverComment by rexriver
    July 5, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    Don’t be angry with Jeff Ellis and Associates. They were taught how to react by our esteemed president, Barack H. Obama. After all, did he not say the police were at fault when they answered a call at the radical professor’s house? When some of the facts came out……….Beer Summit!

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  22. jnrentz1Comment by jnrentz1
    July 5, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

    The Fraternal Order of Police and others boycott Ben and Jerry’s for their support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted murderer of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel (Danny) Faulkner, who was murdered by Jamal while he, Officer Faulkner, was engaged in the performance of his duties.

    Ben and Jerry’s is an active, unapologetic, supporter of Jamal. I hope that all decent, responsible Americans will join in this boycott.

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    • LAPhilComment by LAPhil
      July 5, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

      Little off-topic, don’t you think?

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  23. middlegroundComment by middleground
    July 5, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

    Wasn’t it about 40 years ago that California passed its “Good Samaritan Law” to protect doctors who stopped to render assistance to accident victims from being sued by those they saved or by those who thought they hadn’t done enough to save their relative? If I remember correctly at the time this law was passed half of those doctors who had rendered assistance had been sued, and the CMA had had to warn its members not to stop and apply their skills. Lawyers always try to anticipate the potential for a lawsuit, and in a state with no “good Samaritan-type” laws a lifeguard who goes to the aid of a drowning man and fails to save him might find himself and the company he works for being sued for wrongful death. It would be nice if we could depend of getting better people on juries, but that isn’t in the lawyer’s best interests.

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  24. Pamela J SolichComment by Pamela J Solich
    July 5, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    Your right. The liberals have taken over and we were all asleep. This is insane! There is no longer do good for others etc. instead we all have to be like the liberal A– H— AND LET PEOPLE DIE, LOOK THE OTHER WAY, AND JUST NOT GIVE A DAMN WELL, that’s not me. and I ‘d like to believe, that’s not alot of others out there. I hope this kid sues that company OH RIGHT, IT’S IN THE BYLAWS OR WHATEVER! JERKS Everybody’s a lawyer. THAT’S THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN OUR COUNTRY. LAWYERS A dime a dozen but always making regulations, laws etc. etc etc.
    Hope the other lifeguards walk away on behalf of this youngman for risking his life.
    We all know there will be those suck ups that won’t but I can hope.
    The man he saved SHOULD be speaking up as well!

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  25. bippybellitoComment by bippybellito
    July 5, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    Why would any self respecting Human Being want to work for this company. I hope the entire staff walks out in protest. What this young man did was instinctive. He saw a person in trouble, knew he was the only one who could help, and DID. Unless one is put in that circumstance, you never know how you’ll react. This hero will never have to second guess his decision. He Did the Right Thing. The Bozos who run his company have to live with their decision the rest of their lives.

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  26. oldguy39Comment by oldguy39
    July 5, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

    I wonder if they would have been liable, if this young man would have stood by, and let him drown. Maybe they should fire the supervisor, cold-blooded ******* that he is.

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  27. Susie Haynes GassiottComment by Susie Haynes Gassiott
    July 5, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    I’m curious about how many lifeguards were out there. In softball, we had 3 fielders and a short fielder. When a fielder went after a ball, everyone else went to coverage positions. We might not have made the play, but we never had a ball drown…duh! Poor judgement on using common sense by the bosses
    What were they thinking?…or not. Kudos to the hero. I’d want him on my beach anyday.

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  28. SweetOlBobComment by SweetOlBob
    July 6, 2012 @ 5:05 am

    The news should have published his boss’s name and the name of the company who supplied the Lifeguards.

    Instead of getting great publicity for their employees brave acts, they should have their stupidity in firing him waved in front of the public.
    What a bunch of maroons ! (credit to Bugs Bunny)

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  29. GeorgeComment by George
    July 6, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    Liability issues??? What about preserving human life? Doesn’t that take precedence over stupid no common sense policies? They should be sued for being too stupid to live..

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  30. demarree1Comment by demarree1
    July 7, 2012 @ 6:16 am

    I hope that company goes out of business, no one should work for them again. Anyone who does not value human life, does not belong in a business that has protecting life as its business. Shame on Jim Ellis & Assoc. I hope the town of Hallendale, FL fired them and replaces them with a competent group. GOD BLESS ALL THE LIFEGUARDS WHO PROTECT OUR FLORIDA BEACHES!

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  31. Pingback: Saturday Shorts – 7-7-12 | Designs on the Truth

  32. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    July 7, 2012 @ 8:57 am

    A similar instant occurred a few months ago in the San Francisco bay are. In that instance neither the on-scene police nor fire departments chose to help, it was against their work ‘rules’ to save that particular victim. That Good Samaritan laws have been found to be necessary is a total disgrace for our country.

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  33. cynicalobserverComment by cynicalobserver
    July 7, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    A person has to hesitate if it comes to helping people involved in a traffic accident. Just let them die?

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