ABU DHABI // A passer-by who dived into the sea to rescue a motorist trapped in a sinking car has been given a police bravery award for his actions. Rabih Bobo, 33, from Lebanon, jumped into the water off the Corniche on June 5 after seeing the grey Nissan Armada slowly disappearing beneath the water.
Mr Bobo, who works at the British Embassy in the capital, forced open a rear window, allowing the Indian driver to swim free. At an awards ceremony at Abu Dhabi Police headquarters last week, Mr Bobo was presented with a special commendation by the secretary general of the Interior Minister's Office, Major Gen Nasser al Nuaimi. Asked how he felt to be given the honour, he said: "I was overwhelmed. I was not expecting to receive anything like this.
"It was the furthest thing from my mind when I jumped into the water. All I was thinking about was saving this man. Mr Bobo had been returning from a day out with a friend near Lulu island at about 7.30pm when he spotted a crowd of people staring into the sea. "I saw a lot of people at the end of the Corniche by the marina and the sea wall," said Mr Bobo, who is from Sidon in Lebanon. "At first I didn't realise what was going on and then I saw there was a car in the water.
"I asked if there was anyone in the car and everyone said there was so I just grabbed an inflatable ring and jumped straight in. "I didn't really think about whether it was dangerous. It was just automatic. I just thought, 'There is a person in the car. I have to save them.'" Mr Bobo swam about 20 metres to the sinking vehicle. "I looked in the window and could see the driver was terrified," he said. "He was trying to break a window and get out but the water pressure was too much.
"He was conscious and he looked very pale and frightened. I think he believed he was going to die. "He was banging on the window with his hands but he couldn't break it. His hands were covered in blood. "I tried to break the glass but I couldn't. The water was starting to rush in and so I told the driver to climb to the back of the car, which was still out of the water." Mr Bobo said he saw a window that could be opened by hand from inside and told the man to do so. "I grabbed a piece of wood and tried to force it open more but couldn't, so I jammed it in the window, climbed up and jumped on it.
"I fell in the water and when I came to the surface the man had swum through the broken window." The pair swam to the shore, where they were helped out of the sea by bystanders. Moments later the car disappeared into the water. Mr Bobo said his actions were instinctive: "It was just automatic. I didn't really think about anything except to try my best to make sure he was OK." He added that he would not encourage other people to follow his example unless they were confident swimmers.
Gen al Nuaimi praised Mr Bobo for his bravery, adding that the minister was always keen to reward those who helped spread public safety without endangering their own lives. He described Mr Bobo as a model for courage and praised his quick-thinking. Col Othman al Tamami, director of emergency management and public safety at Abu Dhabi Police, urged people to do what they could to help others but without putting their own lives at risk.
firstname.lastname@example.org * With additional reporting by Meera al Sayegh