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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Elderly Man Found Floating Face Down, Bystander Leaps Into Freezing Water To Save Him

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With all the fear of lawsuits and viruses, people are less likely than ever to rush to help another person when it means getting up close and personal or otherwise risking their own safety.

Last week, José Brito, a 37-year-old father and former fisherman from Cape Verde, was faced with several difficulties when he witnessed an accident take place.

Brito and his son were near the Tejo River in central Lisbon when an older gentleman fell into the water at around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

According to the Portugal Resident, the water was freezing.

The cold was the first issue, but the water could hide other dangers as well.

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Getting close to the 68-year-old could mean the possibility of catching an illness.

Brito later said that there were “about 12 people standing around,” but none of them were interested in attempting to rescue the man themselves.

Someone called for first responders, and some urged others to wait for the authorities to do anything, but Brito knew that on his own, face-down in the frigid waters, the man would probably perish before help could arrive.

“Some said I shouldn’t do anything, that it would be better to wait for the ‘bombeiros’ (firefighter rescue service) but I couldn’t,” he said.

“No one of that age could survive for long,” Brito added. “I did what I had to do.”

He stripped down to his underwear and dropped into the water, swimming to the man and flipping him face-up before hauling him over to some steps.

Two others helped as he placed the man on the steps and began CPR. The video shows them turn the man onto his side as a bystander slaps his back, ostensibly because he’s started spitting up water.

By the time first responders arrived, the man was conscious, thanks to Brito, who said he “would do it all over again” if needed.

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According to Safe Communities Portugal, the older gentleman was taken to the hospital and was still there Saturday afternoon, though his condition was not life-threatening.

Brito’s efforts were recognized by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the president of Portugal.

“Upon learning of the rescue of the person the President of the Republic praised the good example of human solidarity and courage shown by José Brito from Cape Verde, who while walking with his son saved a human life,” a post on the official Presidency of the Republic page stated, according to Safe Communities Portugal.

The president even personally contacted Brito, calling him late at night to thank him for his heroism and for his “human solidarity and courage.”

“I was at home with my family,” Brito recalled. “I never thought it would be him calling me at that hour.”

Perhaps the highest praise came from his son, though, who witnessed firsthand what bravery looked like and referred to Brito as “the best father in the world.”

Did you know that The Western Journal now publishes some content in Spanish as well as English, for international audiences? Click here to read this article on The Western Journal en Español!

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking