Family of boy saved from balcony thanks Malian 'Spiderman'

Malian migrant Mamoudou Gassama holding his temporary French residence permit yesterday. With him is his older brother.
Malian migrant Mamoudou Gassama holding his temporary French residence permit yesterday. With him is his older brother.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • The family of a young boy saved by Malian migrant Mamoudou Gassama in a daring rescue that won him global acclaim and a promise of French citizenship has thanked the "Spiderman" for his quick thinking.

Mr Gassama, 22, scaled four storeys of an apartment block in France last Saturday to rescue the four-year-old who was spotted dangling from a balcony. Yesterday, the French authorities began the first steps towards making him a citizen in recognition of his bravery.

The boy's father had left him alone to go out to the shops and then stayed on the street to play Pokemon Go, investigators said.

The boy's mother found out about the rescue on Reunion Island - the French Indian Ocean territory where she and the father were born and where she lives.

Reacting to Mr Gassama's intervention on Antenne Reunion radio late on Monday, the woman, who was not identified, said: "We can only thank him and thank heaven he was so reactive."

Just half an hour earlier, she had spoken to both father and son in a video call, she said. "Things could have turned out much worse so I am relieved," she said, adding that she was impatient to be reunited with her son and husband.

The boy's paternal grandmother, who also lives in Reunion, told RMC radio that she was "very moved" by the images of the rescue and sent "huge thanks" to Mr Gassama.

The Malian, who had been living in France illegally since last September, arriving via the Mediterranean migrant route, told President Emmanuel Macron on Monday that he "did not think twice" before springing into action.

The video of his rescue has been viewed millions of times online. Yesterday, Mr Gassama was to visit a fire station after being offered a job with the fire service.

The child's mother, who had planned on moving to Paris in June along with the couple's second child, aged one, was due to travel to France yesterday, the BFM news channel reported.

The father, who was arrested on charges of neglecting his parental duties, was released from custody and reunited with his son on Monday under the supervision of social services.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2018, with the headline 'Family of boy saved from balcony thanks Malian 'Spiderman''. Print Edition | Subscribe