From: Biniam Tekle (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Jul 22 2011 - 08:25:59 EDT
Friday, July 22, 2011 , by Fiona Galea Debono
Eritrean migrant who died in beach rescue deemed a hero
It was a “cruel” twist of fate that the diving school, close to where an
Eritrean refugee drowned at Paradise Bay on Wednesday trying to save a
colleague, had closed early for the first time ever, meaning no assistance
was available for the rescue.
Alison Micallef Brennan, who operates Paradise Diving and knew the victim,
Ashih Tekleab Haile, said that, had they still been around, they would have
probably been called to assist in the rescue of the 23-year-old French
student. They would then have tied the two brave men, who were dragged into
the raging seas to save him, to ropes.
But it was not to be and 32-year-old Asher, as he was known, did not
survive, dying in hospital where he was transported by a helicopter despite
efforts to save him.
His co-rescuer, a 20-year-old Frenchman, was plucked from the sea by a
patrol boat after a search and was found to be exhausted and in need of
medical assistance. He has since been released from Mater Dei Hospital.
“Due to the bad weather, we were not using the boats, so we went home at 4
p.m., two hours earlier than usual, which is never the case. We were,
therefore, not around to lend a hand,” Ms Micallef Brennan said regretfully.
She joins a chorus of voices expressing sadness at the tragic end of the
hard-working and “always smiling” Eritrean, who sacrificed his life to save
Mr Tekleab Haile has been described a “hero” for his altruistic deed and
some are even calling for the beach, his watery grave, to be renamed after
him. He deserved to be honoured posthumously and a monument erected in his
name for his “act of bravery, turned fatal”, they said.
Ironically, having probably fought rough seas when he escaped his homeland,
he was engulfed by those same waters that brought him to Malta’s shores in
His colleague, a pool boy at the hotel there, is likely to feel indebted to
him for life. He was off yesterday afternoon and decided to go for a swim in
the swell, finding himself in difficulty.
The other French student, who was on duty, and Mr Tekleab Haile, using a
rope, managed to pull him out of the raging seas from the jetty behind the
hotel. But as soon as he was hauled to land, a wave crashed onto it and
dragged the two in.
The Eritrean was bashed against the rocks and the Frenchman, who could tell
he was practically dead, held his almost lifeless body in the sea for about
20 minutes until the helicopter arrived.
Mr Tekleab Haile was employed as a beach boy at the Paradise Bay Hotel,
where his 24-year-old wife since 2006, Selemawit Hagus Belay, worked in
housekeeping. She happened to be off that fateful Wednesday and sent some
friends to the hotel yesterday to understand exactly what had happened to
The couple were extremely diligent, according to hotel senior staff, and Mr
Tekleab Haile, who was “loved by everyone”, took on various other jobs,
including maintenance work. They rented a flat in St Paul’s Bay, had managed
to buy a car and a computer and were planning to leave for the US
“Asher would not even stop for a break and actually invented work,” the
manager said. In fact, on that day, he had gone to help the pool boys clear
up. It was his second season at the hotel and about six months ago he had
gone to the Marsa detention centre to seek a job in the interim.
Even Ms Micallef Brennan described him as a “helpful guy” and it was so in
keeping with his character that he immediately went to the rescue.
“If ever he saw anyone struggling with something heavy, he would race to
their assistance,” she said. “He had a friendly disposition and was so
grateful for what he had,” she recalled.
The sea was “treacherous” when the north-westerly waves hit into the back of
the hotel, which has a beach that is only accessible to hotel residents and
its gate was locked that day, preventing entry. No one should have been
swimming in the area since it was closed off.
Eyewitnesses said the undercurrent would have been strong and that in such
conditions they would not have dared to jump in because the waves were
“swallowing up everything”.
The two Frenchmen were discharged from hospital, returning to the hotel
yesterday morning, following a whole night in the emergency department.
Exhausted, they retreated to their rooms and did not want to talk about
their traumatic experience.
The refugee section of the Emigrants’ Commission expressed its condolences
to Mr Tekleab Haile’s wife, mother and siblings. It said France, which had
shown “great sympathy towards the refugees in Malta, should be happy that
one of its sons was saved by an Eritrean”.
The Nationalist Party also paid tribute to the memory of the “courageous
youth” describing his act as a “most noble gesture”.
The Labour Youth Forum appealed for the country to honour him in his death
by giving him the national honour of Gieħ ir-Repubblika.
Paradise Diving and the hotel staff are raising funds for the family he left
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