Tomas Lopez will begin classes in the fall
Tomas Lopez, the Hallandale Beach lifeguard fired for leaving his designated zone while rescuing a drowning man, received a key to the city on July 9 from Mayor Joy Cooper and thanks from the man he rescued. The events ended a whirlwind week for Lopez, who said he’s simply looking forward to getting on with his life, including beginning classes at Broward College.
Lopez, 21, another Good Samaritan and six Hallandale paramedics were honored at a ceremony at city hall, where he met Maksim Samartsev, 19, for the first time since the rescue. On July 2 in the early afternoon, Lopez ran to a part of beach outside his lifeguard zone where Marisol Afofra and another man dragged Samartsev’s limp body ashore. Lopez and a nurse on the scene began cardiopulmonary resuscitation
"He saved my life," said Samartsev, who is visiting from Estonia. “It’s very big. He made a sacrifice to save me.” Paramedics transported Samartsev to Aventura Medical Center’s intensive care unit. Three days later, he was released. At Monday’s ceremony, he sat next to Lopez, smiling.
"It’s a big honor, an amazing feeling, knowing that none of this was in vain,” Lopez said. “But all I did was what I was supposed to do.”
When the company that provides lifeguard services for Hallandale Beach reviewed the incident, they fired Lopez and two other lifeguards. Several of his fellow lifeguards quit in protest. When news of what happened hit the media, people around the globe howled in protest. Cooper said she received angry comments from as far away as Australia.
After review, the lifeguard company offered Lopez and his supporters their jobs back. Lopez declined, telling the company he needed to get on with his life, and going to college was a big part of that. He said he’d start work and classes in business administration at Broward College in a few weeks.
“All this is an amazing feeling and a big honor,” he said. “But honestly nothing really has changed in my life,” Lopez said.