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 ( “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.”


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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