A MAN who drowned after helping rescue two girls from the sea has been hailed a ‘true hero’ by a coroner.
Marco Lima De Araujo, 33, died after he entered the Solent alongside teenager Connor Faith at the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth, at 3.45pm on July 26 2012 in a bid to rescue the girls.
An inquest heard the two girls, Destiny, then aged four and Courtney, 10, and Mr Faith, who was then aged 17, made it back to safety.
But despite extensive searches involving police, coastguard helicopter, RNLI, police launches and officers, Mr Lima De Araujo, who lived in Grafton Street, Portsmouth, could not be found.
Mr Lima De Araujo’s body was found in the Solent on August 7 2012.
A post-mortem examination revealed he had drowned. His partner Tracey hall told the inquest he had drunk three cans of lager and smoked a cannabis joint that day.
Reaching a conclusion of accidental death, David Horsley, Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire coroner, said Portugal-born Mr Lima De Araujo’s selflessness ‘deserves nothing but praise.’
Mr Horsley said: ‘The man was a hero. He didn’t give it a second thought. He’s given his life to save those children.’
Addressing his partner Tracey Hall, Mr Horsley said: ‘I think you and all your family will always be proud of that fact. It doesn’t bring him back for you but my goodness you have got good memories of him.’
Mr Horsley said Mr Lima De Araujo was a ‘true hero.’
Speaking after the inquest, Ms Hall thanked the public for their donations totalling more than £1,900 which helped pay for Mr Lima De Araujo to be cremated: ‘I want to thank everybody for their donations and all the support from the people of Portsmouth.’
She added: ‘I know he’s a hero. It’s not news to me. I know what Marco was like.
‘He just did, to me, what was normal.’
Ms Hall and Mr Lima De Araujo, who had been together for about eight years, were visiting the beach at the Hot Walls with grandson when the tragedy happened.
During evidence she said of Marco’s reaction when he realised the girls were in danger: ‘Marco just looked at me and said ‘I’ve got to go and help the little girl’ and that was it. He was gone.’
She added: ‘I just thought he was going to come back out.’
Mr Horsley said of Connor Faith, who also helped rescue the girls: ‘He, like Marco, was a very brave young man.’
Mr Faith did not attend to give evidence at the inquest but his statement was read out at Portsmouth Guildhall.
The inquest heard Connor was at the Hot Walls with friends in the day of the tragedy when a friend shouted out that two girls were drowning.
In his statement Mr Faith said: ‘My instinct was to go in after them. The current was really strong and it dragged me towards the two girls. I could see they were struggling to keep their heads above water.’
He said one girl was shouting ‘help, I want my Mum.’
Mr Faith said in his statement: ‘I grabbed hold of the older girl. I was panicking at the time I was struggling to keep my head above water.’
The inquest heard he pushed the Courtney towards Marco and also mentioned a ‘blonde lady.’ He then swam back out again, grabbed Destiny.
Mr Faith’s statement read: ‘The girl had her head right back facing the sky and was shouting ‘I want my Daddy.’ I was struggling to move my arms and I was really tired. I shouted to the girl to get onto my back.’
A pilot boat arrived at the scene Mr Faith and Destiny were thrown a life ring but it was swept away by the current.
It was thrown back and Mr Faith passed Destiny up first.
Pilot Trevor Fox told the inquest: ‘There is no doubt on my mind. If that young chap hadn’t held that little girl she would have drowned.’
Mr Horsley had said he will now write to the Queen’s Harbour Master and Portsmouth City Council to request a formal protocol is developed involving all relevant agencies to clarify procedures for responding to similar incidents.
It comes after concerns were raised that a loud hailer was not used to help raise the alarm.
The organisations will have 56 days to respond to his request.
Mr Horsley said: ‘I’m not saying had the measures had been in place Marco would have survived.’
After the inquest Tracey Hall said: ‘I’d like to thank those in Portsmouth for the support and donations in our difficult time a special thanks to Mayfield’s funeral directors and a special special thanks to my daughter Tyler Saunders for all her help in the fund raising and sponsorship, and thank you to all my family and friends for your help and support.’