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The internet has been abuzz with the story of Joe Blankson, the Rivers State man who saved thirteen people in a boat mishap and lost his life in the process. I didn’t know Joe very well and the news of his heroic feat touched me like it did the rest of the world. I’m writing this as someone who has been saved from drowning myself (when I was a child), and as a human being trying to understand how Blankson was able to do something so rare. Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide and rescuing a victim is known to be an extremely dangerous act. Here are five reasons why Joe was a real life hero.

It is hard to identify a drowning victim

While this was an obvious emergency involving multiple potential victims, it is usually hard to confirm when a person is drowning. They usually just sink and disappear from above the water surface; their arms don’t splash around visibly like in the movies.

It is dangerous, even for the highly trained

Rescuing someone who is drowning is an extremely difficult act which requires specific skills. From undressing very fast, to being able to swim in natural waters, rescuing a drowning victim is nothing like what we see in the movies.

The victim could drown you

A person who is drowning can easily drown their rescuer when panicking. Because of the natural tendency of drowning victims to grab on the nearest object, rescuers are trained to swim around the victim and subdue them with a hold.

Jumping in is a last resort

Rescue training advises that one get into the water only as a last resort when saving a drowning victim. It is so dangerous that one is advised to throw a rope or something that could help the victim float, and only dive in as a last resort.

The mind of a hero

Psychologists have tried to explain why some people are able to risk their own lives to save others. While some theories suggest empathy or some ulterior motive like relieving guilt, all the research shows that altruism is not something that everyone has. Most of us aren’t altruistic enough to put ourselves at risk for others, even if we have sufficient time to think things through.

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