A lifeguard for 13 years, Johnson Gabriel was credited with saving at least 10 lives at popular beach destinations in the city. On Wednesday, he dived in the choppy waters and saved the life of a woman. On Saturday, a day after the body of the 43-year-old was fished out, people of Kerala recalled his sacrifice.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan posted on Facebook, “Lifeguard Johnson Gabriel…daringly saved a life, disregarding his (own) safety. This government would be with his family.’’
Gabriel’s wife Shalini, 39, said, “I am proud of what he did — saving a life. His name — Gabriel — means guardian angel. In his life, and death, my husband proved to be a true guardian of lives.”
On Wednesday, a woman allegedly jumped in the water on Shankumugham beach, disregarding warnings. Gabriel also jumped in the turbulent sea and got hold of her. He swam back and managed to hand her over to another lifeguard. But huge waves engulfed him and smashed him against concrete blocks.
Chandran Nair, chief coordinator of lifeguards at the Tourism Department, said, “He had saved at least 10 to 12 people over 13 years in his job as a lifeguard.”