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Mersey Ferry heroes tell of toddler river rescue

'The first thing I saw were her big blue eyes looking at me in shock'

Published on October 17th 2013.

Mersey Ferry heroes tell of toddler river rescue

THE Mersey is a particularly treacherous and unforgiving river, so Monday's news reports of a three year old who had plunged 16ft from a Seacombe ferry ticked all the boxes of “every parent's nightmare”. 

Thanks to two heroic crewmen, however, this time there was a happy ending. The toddler was plucked from the freezing waters by Ricardo Ermocilla and Ste Murphy who dived in as she slipped under the waves. 

'I remember saying “I’ve got you now”. She
started to cry which made me feel so much
better as it meant she was breathing'

Now, after numerous requests for interviews, the pair have been speaking about their experiences, just this one time, via Merseytravel. 

They tell how instinct took over and of the “burning cold” that froze muscles and how the child's pink padded coat may have saved her life in those crucial minutes. 

Captain’s Mate Ricardo, 38, from Panama and living in Crosby and Chief Engineer Ste, 41, from Aigburth, rescued the toddler who fell from the deck of the Snowdrop after it had berthed at Seacombe just before 2.30pm on Monday. 

Ricardo was on board the Snowdrop and Ste had just stepped off after finishing his shift. He was on the quayside when the incident happened. 

Ste said: “I was the first to see her from the quayside. I’d heard a couple of bangs and a splash and saw a woman looking down from the boat into the water screaming. My first thought was that she’d lost her bag, but then I heard somebody shout “It’s a baby”. I looked into the water and saw her with her arms and head back, just like you’d be taught in a swimming lesson. There’s no doubt her padded coat was keeping her afloat.”

Ricardo recalled the moment he made the decision to leap into the Mersey.

"People had begun to disembark when I heard the captain say that somebody had gone into the water. I heard shouting and screaming. I went to the top deck but couldn’t get near the side of the boat as there were too many people crowded around the side looking out. I rushed to the main deck, looked over and saw a little pink coat floating in the water. I shouted 'I’m going in', took my shoes off and jumped into the water. It was instinct.”

The three-year-old was partly hidden under the fender – the buffer between the ship and quayside.

Added Ricardo: ‘The first thing I saw when I grabbed her were big blue eyes looking up at me in shock. I remember saying “I’ve got you now”. She started to cry which made me feel so much better as it meant she was breathing.

“By this point I’d begun to feel the water. It was so cold it was practically burning. All my muscles had frozen, I couldn’t move and I felt so tired.

“I’d been following Ste’s voice. He was directing me to the girl and telling me what to do once I’d got her. It was then I saw his hand, what I now call 'the hand of God', sticking out from under the fender. He grabbed me, pulled me in, took the girl from me, lifted her up and put her on his chest.”

Snowdrop FerrySnowdrop FerryBoth are keen for other staff to share the credit. Ste, who’s a dad of two said. “It was a real team effort. This isn’t just about me and Ric. Somebody was really looking down on us on that day too.  It was so lucky that it was low tide as the The Mersey is one of the fastest tidal rivers in the world.

“It’s also lucky that we were using the rear gangway as it made it easier for us to spot the girl. We’d been using the front one in the morning, but had changed on the request of the stage man who found the rear one easier to manoeuvre as he had a sore shoulder. It was also by sheer good fortune that she fell in the water and not onto the fender. When I think back to Monday my thoughts are still on what could have happened…”

Dad of two Ricardo still gets emotional thinking about the moment he grabbed the little girl:  “I can still see the baby’s face and those big round blue eyes. I went home and hugged my kids. It doesn’t matter whose child it was. We had to do something."

The mother of the three-year-old wants to express her gratitude to all the Merseytravel staff involved. Living in Warrington, she was on a day trip to Liverpool when the incident happened. She has asked not to be named.

“We can’t explain how grateful we are to the crew who saved our daughter’s life. They went into the water without even thinking about it. It all happened so quickly. One minute she was in the Mersey, and the next she was being pulled out. The staff on the quayside couldn’t do enough to help either. They were extremely efficient, wrapping her up and calling an ambulance immediately. All they wanted to do was help her. It was a horrific experience, but one that puts your faith in human nature.”

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AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

Give 'em a medal

AnonymousOctober 17th 2013.

Anyone who jumps in the river and does that deserves massive congrats, well done lads! Deserves some sort of recognition....free seats and an ovation at next home games?

Iris RoyalOctober 17th 2013.

I hate to think what I would have done if I had been there, which is nothing. It takes rare courage to risk your life like this. Well done.

Jules BurkeOctober 17th 2013.

Very brave of these two men they need some kind of reward ....

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