One Life He Could Not Save

The diary of Brendan Woodhouse, saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea, on one life he could not save:

“Today has be incredibly tough.

I have no suitable photos I want to share from today, so here’s the sunset from the ship, perhaps it’s relevant.

We spotted the first boat just before 7am. We took some pregnant women off a couple of rubber boats and also attended a small wooden boat. One of the pregnant women was eight months pregnant and complaining of stomach pains. We took her back to the ship with the other pregnant women and in the end they were all ok. This was the first of just six boats that we dealt with today.

Later in the day, my RHIB (small boat) was towing another rubber boat to the Seawatch 2 (our ship) when we received a distress call from the other RHIB. They were asking for urgent medical assistance and specifically asked for the medical team. We stopped towing the rubber boat and immediately returned to the ship to collect the doctor.

On the other RHIB, a young girl, unconscious was being transported back to an Italian warship. She had no pulse and was not breathing. Our team were trying to perform CPR on the way but it’s tough to do on a speedboat. Even so, their care was exactly right and their procedures and efforts were spot on.

My RHIB returned and we collected the doctor, and some medical equipment. The other RHIB returned and picked us up. We got to the Italian warship as fast as we could…

As we climbed the stairs on the side of the ship, we were pointed to where the girl was being treated. I assisted by using the BVM (bag valve mask), and oxygen in order to give breaths. She still wasn’t breathing. Empty eyes looked up into the sky as we tried frantically to save her.

After some time a helicopter came to airlift the girl away, but she was already dead. We were unable to save her. She was about 16 years old…

I don’t know her name. I don’t know where she comes from. I don’t know what happened to her, why she was traveling and what was wrong. I don’t know anything except that this is yet another avoidable tragedy that occurs far too often. I know that the hearts of the guys I’m working with are broken, but they will recover. I know that our resolve is strong and that our determination is growing. I know that somewhere, a mother waits for the news of her beautiful daughters safe arrival in Europe.

I know that she will never hear from her again.

Also on the same rubber boat was a new born baby and mother. They had set off from Libya when the baby was just two hours old. The baby hadn’t fed yet and was crying, which in my view is good because it shows that the baby has both an airway and the strength to scream. The mother was understandably exhausted. I think that both mother and baby are ok. This baby though, still on the Italian warship as I write this has spent the vast majority of its life at sea. Two hours on land and the rest of it split between a rubber boat and a warship. But they’re alive at least..

Another woman who was traveling had just given birth to a still born baby in Libya. Her body, still ready to care for the baby, still creating milk etc. An incredibly tough time for this woman, but we didn’t have much time to help her. All we were able to do was transport her to the warship. The teams attention was correctly focused on trying to save the young girl at the time.

As you can well imagine, the crew are devastated by today’s events. We’re a strong team though and are supporting each other well. But I’ll tell you the truth right now, I’m sad, almost tearful, but more than anything I’m fucking angry…

I’m angry at my government and the European community. I’m angry at their racist borders. I’m angry with the bog eyed Internet trolls that fuel hatred. I’m angry at our politicians and our systems. I’m angry at the easy perceptions created by the lazy people looking for easy answers from rags like The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Express etc. I’m angry at hate preachers like Katie Hopkins.

Why did this girl die? Not because of me or my team, we were spot on today. We did everything right and I’m totally confident about that. She died just because she can’t just buy a ticket. A simple ticket for a plane or a ferry. What the actual hell is wrong with us that we can’t even let her do that?

Where is our humanity?

We preach to the world about democracy and civilisation. We speak so eloquently about how this country should do this and how that country should do the other, but we can’t give basic protections to young girls running from rape and torture?

I’ve heard loads about ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ lately and it’s an absolute truth. But it’s not just in America, where the disparity between black and white is affecting humans. It’s our systems in Europe too. For I tell you this with 100% conviction, if this girl was white, if all of the people dying in the Mediterranean Sea were white, Europe would have helped.


To the beautiful young girl that died today, too soon in your life, with your dreams for the future scattered in the sea. With all you could achieve and hope and live for, lost forever…we Love you. We are sorry that we couldn’t help you.

We tried our best. It’s all we’ve got.

We will keep trying for you, and your people, and in your memory. You are not forgotten. We will take our principles and arguments to our politicians and we will repeat our demands. For Europe needs a system of accepting asylum applications that is safe and fair. That does not need to rely on intimidation and the fear of death at sea. That does not discriminate. That protects and shares the burden of responsibility. We will do our best to highlight the root cause of your suffering and demand to create a safe passage as an intrinsic and basic human right for all.

In memory of you, beautiful angel. May you rest in peace. May your memory be the catalyst for a change in people hearts.

We also urge you to campaign for Safe Passage. Write to your MP’s, talk to each other, share posts, do your research, there are lives at stake.

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