Maryann Tobin

Hallandale Beach, Florida, lifeguard Tomas Lopez, was fired on Wednesday for saving a man from drowning.

According to his boss, Jeff Ellis, owner of the management company that bares his name, Lopez was fired because he crossed a flag that marked the boundary of his work zone by a few hundred feet. Ellis told the Sun Sentinel he feared being “sued” over the boundary breech.

“After tending to the man, who was taken to hospital with water in his lungs, Lopez filled out an incident report, and was fired for leaving the protected area of the beach – ostensibly because of liability issues,” according to

Ellis’ statement begs the question, what if the lifeguard had stopped at the boundary of his work zone and the victim died?

Does Ellis believe that the family of the man who died would not “sue” because a lifeguard stood behind a flagged boundary and watched him drown?

Would Ellis’ company statement then have been, Someone died but it’s OK because the lifeguard followed the rules?

The company policy of Jeff Ellis Management is obviously not about saving lives. It’s about avoiding lawsuits. Since that is the case, perhaps Ellis should find himself another business to run; one that does not involve telling his employees that their real job is to watch people die if they happen to be drowning just past a flag line on the beach.

Rules are necessary in any work environment. But they should never supersede common sense and compassion.

If Lopez and Ellis told their stories of this incident to a jury, who do you think they would side with?


South Florida lifeguard fired after saving man