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Greece migrant crisis: UK firefighter tells of baby girl's sea rescue

Published 21/01/2016

Brendan Woodhouse travelled to Greece to help save refugees arriving on the shores of Europe (AP)
Brendan Woodhouse travelled to Greece to help save refugees arriving on the shores of Europe (AP)

A firefighter and former Army medic who volunteered to help save refugees arriving on the shores of Europe has described how he risked his own life to save a baby girl from drowning in the sea.

Brendan Woodhouse, originally from Durham, travelled to Greece after initially working in refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk.

During the two-week trip with Lighthouse Refugee Relief on Lesbos, he would often man the night shift in a lighthouse overlooking a dangerous part of the shore, and one evening saw a dinghy full of people capsize.

Diving straight into the pitch black sea off Korakas beach, the 39-year-old found a five-month-old girl face down in the water, and balancing her on his chest he began to perform CPR in the sea.

"She was not breathing and I needed to get back to shore," he said.

"I began to swim back to shore, weaving in and out of other people and life jackets and eventually managed to get my feet on to the sea floor.

"I was then able to give five rescue breaths and after the second one she sicked up all the water and within a second she was screaming.

"It was an unbelievable sight, it reminded me of when my children were born, just the sheer relief I felt that she was okay."

Mr Woodhouse, who has been a firefighter for 13 years and works in Nottingham, described the scene of horror that confronted him as the 35 people, half of whom were children, began to scream for help.

Having pulled on his wet suit, helmet and torch, he initially helped pull a family of five to safety before he saw a mother screaming, which directed him to the baby girl.

Despite having also served as a combat medic in Afghanistan, he described the events of December 23 as "the most traumatic moment of my life".

He said: "If people believe like I do that we are all the same and we should help each other when we're in need then we should get involved in this.

"Please join the various refugee help groups on the internet and there's no excuse not to be involved. People can donate at"

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