Teen Saves 4-Month-Old After Mediterranean Shipwreck

Photojournalist's stomach was 'twisting in two' during dramatic rescue
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2022 12:18 PM CDT

French photojournalist Michael Bunel says that when the Doctors Without Borders ship he was on arrived at the scene of a "catastrophic" shipwreck in the Mediterranean, he put down his camera to start saving people—but he took a few moments to capture the dramatic rescue of a 4-month-old baby boy. A teenager who had been clinging to a piece of wood for hours handed the infant to rescuers, Brunel tells Brut. The baby was no longer breathing but rescuers were able to revive him with cardiac message, Brunel says. He says that when the ship arrived at the site, the teen could be heard shouting, "There's a baby."

The teenager, a 17-year-old from Togo, is being hailed as a hero, the Guardian reports. "I am a good swimmer and I went to help people," the teen said, per Doctors Without Borders—Médecins Sans Frontières—which has been operating its Geo Barents ship in the Mediterranean for a year. Bunel says the baby and his mother were airlifted to a hospital in Italy, though other survivors had to remain on the ship for days before they were allowed to disembark in Italy.

Bunel says his stomach was "twisting in two" during the tense rescue of the infant. "As a journalist it was necessary that I ... make images," he says. "But very quickly, we are faced with a case that is so critical, with a lot of children, pregnant women, that in fact, you put the box down and you simply start saving people." The charity says it was able to rescue 71 people from the scene, though an estimated 30 people did not survive the hours in the water after the shipwreck, and a pregnant woman who could not be resuscitated died on the rescue ship. The charity says the tragedy, like many others in the Mediterranean, is the result of "inaction and disengagement" from European Union countries. (More rescue stories.)

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