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Ferry crew speak of dramatic child rescue

Ricardo Ermocilla and Chief Engineer Ste Murphy Photo: MerseyTravel

The mother of a three-year-old who fell into the River Mersey from the top deck of a ferry has said the "horrific experience" has "restored her faith in human nature".

The girl was rescued by two of the ferry crew, Captain’s Mate, 38-year-old Ricardo Ermocilla from Panama and living in Crosby and Chief Engineer Ste Murphy, 41, from Aigburth,

The mother of the girl, who asked not to be named said: “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.”

The toddler fell from the deck of the ferry 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 added: ‘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. Describing the moment he pulled the girl from the water Ricardo said: ‘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.”

Both 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…”

Ricardo, a dad of two, says the emotion of the moment will live with him: "I went home and hugged my kids. It doesn’t matter whose child it was. We had to do something. “