Tomas Lopez said Thursday that he “humbly declined” the offer by Jeff Ellis Management to get his job back as a lifeguard in Hallandale Beach.
“It’s not out of spite or anger or anything like that. It’s just I prefer not working for the company any more,” Lopez said, several days after he was fired for leaving his post to help rescue a man drowning outside the zone he was supposed to patrol.
Lopez said that he spoke directly with Ellis, whose company provides lifeguards for the City of Hallandale Beach.
“They offered me a heartfelt, a real good apology, but I just declined. I just want to move on to the next chapter of my life,” the 21-year-old said.
On Monday he ran to try and help a man struggling in the water in guarded territory outside his lifeguard zone, breaking his company’s policy. Lopez said that he knew he left his zone, but said he couldn’t sit back and do nothing.
Ellis told NBC 6 that Lopez “was a good employee, and I believe he was performing to his conscience."
"I think he showed a lot of courage in what he did originally and definitely we would like to have him back to work. I hope he would reconsider again,” Ellis said in a phone interview.
Lopez said he was not offered a raise, just his job back.
“I told them I appreciate the apology, but I’m going to humbly decline your invitation. I’m going to continue my education and further my education and I’m going to turn this situation into something I can use as a positive, and just find another job and continue on with my life,” he said.
The Broward College student has television cameras all around him these days, after the news of his firing gained widespread attention.
The 21-year-old man Lopez and a nurse tended to on the beach was rushed to Aventura Hospital in intensive care. He was discharged from the hospital on Thursday.
The fact that Lopez was fired in the first place outraged residents and elected officials in the beachside city.
"I think it’s commendable. I think he should be given the keys to the city by the mayor, OK?" resident Nico Mancini said of Lopez’s actions.
"And as a former lifeguard for my Boy Scout camp, I know that you need to do the right thing when it comes to trying to rescue somebody, but they're promising that they're gonna make this right," Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Alex Lewy said.
Two other lifeguards said they were also fired for failing to agree with the company policy, and four others resigned in protest.
Ellis said he is offering all of their jobs back, and that so far none of them have accepted.
Hallandale Beach, which has contracted with Jeff Ellis Management for lifeguard services since 2003, said it is awaiting a report from Ellis on his investigation into the original handling of the terminations.
City Manager Renee Crichton commended Lopez and others who came to the aid of the near-drowning victim.
“It has always been the city’s policy that if there is an actual emergency inside or outside of the protected area, the lifeguard must respond,” Crichton said in a statement. “We do, however, have to ensure that certain safety protocols are followed to ensure the safety of all visitors to the City of Hallandale Beach."