A coroner has described a 33-year-old man who drowned as he “selflessly” helped to rescue two young girls in the sea as a “true hero”.
Marco De Araujo, of Grafton Street, Portsmouth, Hampshire, died after he entered the water at Old Portsmouth along with another man, Connor Faith, to help the childen, aged four and 10, on July 26 2012. His body was found in the Solent by the crew of Royal Navy warship HMS Richmond on August 7.
The inquest at Portsmouth heard that Mr De Araujo had been at the Hot Walls beach, close to the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour, with his partner Tracey Hall and her grandson.
Ms Hall said they were enjoying sitting on the beach during the hot summer’s afternoon when they heard a woman calling for help.
She said that Mr De Araujo was a strong swimmer and used to swim regularly when he lived in Portugal, where he worked as a barman and silver service waiter.
Natalie Lock told the inquest that she had gone to the beach with her four children, along with a friend and her four children.
As she was packing up to leave, she heard shouts that two girls, her four-year-old daughter Destiny and her friend’s daughter Courtney, 10, were in trouble in the water.
She said: “I freaked out and went straight over, I could see Destiny because Connor was holding her. Courtney had walked to the shore because Marco had brought her to shore.
“Apparently Marco had brought her to shore and gone back out again.”
In a statement read to the court, labourer Mr Faith, who was 17 at the time, said: “The current was really strong and took me to the girls. They were shouting ‘Help, I want my mum’. The small girl was hanging on to the older one.”
He managed to push the girl towards Mr De Araujo who had swum out to help. He continued: “I swam back out again, which again was with the current, and I managed to get to the other girl and the girl had her face right back facing the sky and was shouting ‘I want my daddy’.”
He said that they shouted for help and a pilot boat arrived, threw them a lifebelt and hauled them from the water.
Praising the courage of Mr De Araujo and Mr Faith, Portsmouth coroner David Horsley said: “Like Marco, he was a very brave man who did everything he could to help those girls.”
Reaching a conclusion that Mr De Araujo’s death was an accident, Mr Horsley said: “That selflessness deserves nothing but praise, he didn’t give it a second thought and he has given his life to save those children.”