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Lifeguard who was fired for trying to rescue man is offered job back

Tomas Lopez, who claims he was fired after helping rescue a swimmer outside his post, has declined an offer from his former employer to return to work. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

A Florida lifeguard who was fired for leaving his patrol zone to rescue a man drowning was offered his job back Thursday, NBCMiami.com reported

But lifeguard Tomas Lopez told NBCMiami.com that he would not be accepting the offer.

The company that fired Lopez, Jeff Ellis Management, was hired by the city of Hallandale to provide lifeguards for the city's beach and pools, the Sun Sentinel reported


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Lopez, who became a lifeguard four months ago, was fired when he violated company policy Monday, NBCMiami.com reported. Lopez went into waters outside the lifeguard zone the company is paid to patrol after a beachgoer told him someone was drowning. 

A sign separating the zones warns everyone to swim at their own risk.

Company officials told the Sentinel that beachgoers in Lopez's zone were put in jeopardy when he left the area.

"I was on stand, and guests came up to me and told me there was someone drowning, that people were screaming and so I started running in the direction," Lopez told NBCMiami. 

NBCMiami.com reported that a manager told Lopez to call 911 instead. Lopez said he couldn't just sit back and do nothing while the man was in trouble. 

By the time he arrived, the man had been pulled out the water by other beachgoers, but he assisted in treating the victim. 

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After filing an incident report, Lopez was fired, the Sentinel reported. 

"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 Florida lifeguard who was fired for helping save a swimmer's life outside of his patrol zone, turns down an offer to get his old job back. WTVJ's Ari Odzer reports.

Several coworkers said they quit in protest.

"On radio I heard Tommy saying, 'I'm going for a rescue but it’s out of our zone,' said Kalok Geng, a coworker who quit.

Company president Jeff Ellis said that one employee was fired and three had resigned. 

Ellis told the station previously that an investigation would be conducted. 

"If he was well-intentioned and tried to do what he believed was the right thing, even if he deviated from policy, I'm not sure termination was the right thing to do," Ellis said in a statement.

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City officials felt the situation called for Lopez to go and help the man in trouble. 

"The city's position is if there's an actual emergency, the lifeguard should assist instead of waiting for a perceived emergency," Hallandale Beach spokesman Peter Dobens told NBCMiami.com.

Louis Casiano of msnbc.com contributed to this report from NBCMiami.com's Gilma Avalos and Ari Odzer.

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