A picture of a Carabinieri staring into a freezing canal from the ANSA archive | Photo: ANSA
A picture of a Carabinieri staring into a freezing canal from the ANSA archive | Photo: ANSA

A young Senegalese immigrant has become a hero in Padua, in the north-east of Italy, after jumping into a freezing cold river to save an elderly Italian man who was apparently trying to commit suicide.

He heard the cries for help, and saw a man in the middle of the river and did not hesitate before stripping down and jumping into the freezing cold river. The man, a 21-year-old Senegalese migrant named Ousmane Cissoko, thus saved the life of an elderly Italian who had apparently been trying to commit suicide. 

Cissoko arrived in Italy three years ago on a boat from Libya. At the time of the incident he said he was just "follow[ing] his heart. There were people yelling and I saw that man. No one was jumping into the water and my heart told me that was the most important thing to do," he explained. 

Freezing plunge

The incident occurred just outside of Padua along the pedestrian walkway connecting Brenta Bridge with Cadoneghe at 7:50 AM. A 68-year-old man apparently jumped into the river from the middle of the bridge in an attempt to end his life. A woman was walking nearby and Cissoko was also not far away, on his bike; heading towards his place of work in Limena. 

The young African heard the desperate cries and understood that there was no time to waste and that if he didn't do it, no one would. "The girl was screaming," Cissoko said, "and I felt it in my heart. I took off my clothes and jumped into the water. I grabbed him with my left hand in the middle of the river and tried to walk but the water was too high and I was being pulled down and so I used my other hand to swim towards the riverbank.Someone called the carabinieri and an ambulance arrived too." 

Back to work

Cissoko went straight to work after the rescue. It seems the 68-year-old man arrived at the hospital in a very serious condition. Cissoko instead dried himself off, got dressed and got back onto his bike to go to work. He noted, in shaky Italian, that "they asked me if I was too tired and I said no, since I am used to working in my country. It was important to do something and I did it." 

After arriving in Italy on a boat from Libya, Cissoko spent some time in a migrant reception center in Bagnoli, near Padua. He now has a regular contract and a job as a worker in a small business in Limena, near to Padua.

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