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Lifeguard Fired After Violating Policy and...Saving a Drowning Man's Life

"It was the moral thing to do. I would never pick a job over my morals."

Editor's note: there's been an update in the story. Scroll down for additional information.

Don't let the name fool you: at one beach in Florida, the lifeguards aren't allowed to save lives if a person is drowning outside a designated area. But when a beachgoer came running to Tommy Lopez on Monday telling him someone was drowning -- and that someone was outside his designated area -- Lopez did what came naturally and saved the man.

That apparently didn't matter to his employer. Lopez had violated the rule and was subsequently fired for leaving the section of the beach his company is paid to patrol. The Orlando-based company, Jeff Ellis and Associates, says Lopez violated policy and could have put beachgoers in his section in jeopardy.

"I ran out to do the job I was trained to do," the 21-year-old Lopez told the Sun-Sentinel. "I didn't think about it at all."

"They didn't tell me in a bad way. It was more like they were sorry, but rules are rules," he said of his firing. "I couldn't believe what was happening."

The story has his fellow lifeguards enraged. In fact, some of them have quit over it -- one even did it while ABC News was on site covering the story:

Still, Lopez says he'd do it all again: "It was the moral thing to do. I would never pick a job over my morals."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UPDATE:

According to ABC News, the head of the lifeguard company Lopez worked for is saying there is a chance the young man could be offered his job back. Jeff Ellis says he is reviewing the situation again to get all the facts straight (which raises the question: Isn't that what you should do before firing someone?).

"This event caught me by surprise just as much as it did everyone else," Ellis said. "We're reviewing everything that has occurred, and we will either concur with that or we will override what happened based on what we find out."

"If he left his chair and we had a beach full of people and they were left unprotected, that would be one thing," he added. "If he left his beach and another guard immediately took over and covered so that the beach was protected, that would be an entirely different thing."

He then concluded: "Once we get all of [the information], we can make an assessment to determine whether or not we acted appropriately."

One last thing…
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