Sixteen Syrian refugees, including an 18-month-old boy, were rescued by Turkish fishermen on Friday after their boat capsized and sank in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Kusadasi near Izmir in Turkey.
Fisherman Cenal Gurman, 48, told a Turkish media outlet that he nearly missed the 18-month-old baby — later identified as Muhammed — had he not gone back to check if there were any more survivors after sighting and rescuing the 15 other refugees in life jackets.
He said that when he went back out to check and also collect other life jackets littering the sea, he saw the toddler.
“It must have been in the water for a long time,” Gurman said. “I got to it and pulled it out. It was a boy, and he was suffering from hypothermia.”
Video of the dramatic rescue shows baby Muhammed unresponsive as Gurman flips him upside down to “get rid of the water in his lungs and stomach,” he said.
The 18-month-old survived, and Gurman covered him in a blanket before handing him over to the Turkish Coast Guard, who came to assist with the refugees.
Muhammed was immediately taken to the hospital and was discharged in a few hours.
“I am so happy we saved 16 lives,” Gurman said. “We hope this never happens again.”
Turkish media also caught Muhammed’s reunion with his family on the boat, including his mother, Lorin Halef.
Halef, 23, told reporters the family was from Kobane, Syria, and they plan to return there after this experience, adding that she would never again try to go back to Europe.
The boat that sank reportedly also carried 15 other passengers, but they were not found.