The head of a lifeguard company that fired a lifeguard who rescued a man outside his dedicated zone offered him his job back Thursday, but he declined.
Hallandale Tomas Lopez never dreamed he would get famous for being fired. Photographers and reporters waited on his every word in sweltering heat, and his story permeated the internet.
"It is really amazing, honestly, all the support and the attention I have been getting," Lopez said.
On Monday, Lopez rescued a swimmer outside the boundaries his company and the city mandated. After making sure his area was covered, he saved a man's life.
"I think the mayor should give him the keys to the city, OK? That's what my feeling is," said Hallandale Beach resident Nico Mancini.
Instead, the company fired him. Eight other lifeguards were either fired or quit in solidarity, and now Lopez has become somewhat of a folk hero.
"All I know is that I can't believe this is going on right now, that I am talking to you," said Lopez's mother, Juany Pumarol.
When asked if she's a proud mother, Pumarol said, "Yes, I am."
Jeff Ellis, the owner of the company overseeing the lifeguards, said that if Lopez had seen a swimmer in distress, he could have gone in and saved him, and it would not have been a problem. But, the problem is that Lopez was standing in the lifeguard tower and someone came up to him and told him a swimmer was in trouble. He did not see the swimmer. That is a portion of the policy that is now going to be reviewed.
Local 10 put Ellis on the phone with Lopez.
"I am sincerely sorry for what happened to you, as well as your colleagues, and I would really appreciated it if you would consider coming back to work for us," Ellis said.
"Honestly, on a personal note, it is not out of spite towards the company, but after this has happened, I am just going to move on and get ready to go to school," Lopez said.
Meanwhile, the city is dealing with a public relations mess.
"We hope that this is going to get corrected, and we are certainly going to look into this when the contract is up this year," said Hallandale Beach Commissioner Alexander Levy.
A representative of the hospital said the man Lopez pulled from the ocean has been discharged in good condition.