JOHN L. PAUL
He may be only in standard III, but he is truly a hero.
In times of crisis, it is sheer presence of mind that comes to the rescue of people. Instead of being overtaken by fear and pain, timely action on the part of a 10-year-old saved the lives of his relatives who met with an accident. In recognition of his bravery, Joel Salim Jacob, a standard-VI student of Bhavan's Vidya Mandir, Girinagar, has been selected for this year's State Bravery Award instituted by the Kerala State Child Welfare Board in connection with Children's Day.
During the summer vacation of 2005, Joel had gone to the house of Shaji Jacob, his father's brother in Marayoor. On May 7, the families of his two uncles decided to go on a picnic to Kodaikanal, in two cars. They took Joel along in Mr Shaji's car, starting from home at 4 am. By 8.45 am, they were travelling through the Palani-Kodaikanal road, when a lorry came in the opposite direction, at a turning. Mr Shaji swerved the car to the left, following which the car lost control, hit a culvert and plunged into a gorge on the side. Joel, who was asleep when the accident took place, was thrown out of the car when it fell around 100 feet into the gorge. He landed on a thorny shrub of lemon plants and suffered a fractured leg. He watched helplessly as the car tumbled down to a depth of about 650 feet. The other passengers - his uncle, aunty, their son and a five-year-old child of another uncle, were thrown out of the car in different places along the gorge. "I could hear my uncle's son call out my name, while writhing in pain. His thighbone had fractured and his leg swung to one side. The others too suffered serious injuries. I knew that unless I called for help, they could not be brought up and taken to the hospital. Instead of running down, I somehow managed to climb up to the road, ignoring the pain that ran all through my body," says Joel, tired of repeating the synopsis of events to friends and relatives dozens of times."I somehow wanted to inform my uncle in the second car. A few minutes later a car approached and I signalled it to stop but the driver sped off. The second car stopped, but the women passengers could not do much. They tried calling the police and fire force but their cell phone did not have range." By that time, the car driven by his uncle arrived and the occupants rushed down to save the injured. Sadly, Mr Shaji died on the spot, suffering multiple fractures. His wife too suffered fractures and internal injuries. Their son's thighbone broke and Joel's five-year-old cousin suffered a fracture to his skull. Eight engineering students who arrived at the spot in bikes helped in rushing the injured to the hospital. It was later that the police and Fire Force arrived. Joel's father Adv. Salim Jacob says that but for Joel's timely response, none including the uncle in the second car, would have known of the accident. "The lorry sped off after the accident and it is said that the occupants of the first car did not stop to help despite the small kid signalling them."Joel says that he derived inspiration from books on brave children, who by their timely action saved lives and property. "I read a book called Little Bravehearts, which contains stories of children who saved lives of others who had fallen into well or met with accidents. I had a fair idea of what to do in times of crisis. I dedicate the award to Jesus Christ, whom I feel intervened to give me strength," he says. His sister Joan, a standard III student of the same school, is all cheers as she cannot digest the fact that her brother is in the news. A function was organised in Bhavan's, Girinagar to honour Joel, in which is father and mother Dolly too were invited. The District Council for Child Welfare too honoured him, at a function held in the Ernakulam Children's Park on Children's Day.