A 37-year-old banker from Turin is being hailed a hero after miraculously catching an Italian toddler who fell from her family’s fifth floor balcony on Saturday.
Mattia Aguzzi said he and his girlfriend were walking to a bread shop in central Turin, Italy just before 11 a.m. local time, when he heard a man yelling for help from an upper floor apartment.
“I went out with my girlfriend to buy bread and we heard screams from a building that caught our attention,” he told CNN affiliate Sky24, speaking outside the hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.
“I heard a man scream when he saw the little girl leaning out on the ledge. The little girl kept leaning more and more and climbed over the ledge, she held on only with two arms and her legs were in the air,” Aguzzi said.
He said he shouted to try to get the three-year-old’s attention to stop her from crawling out further, but when he realized she didn’t hear him, he calculated her trajectory and stood below her.
“I started yelling at her to stay still and to go back inside but she didn’t hear. When I saw her fall I stepped in the way, closed my eyes and hoped that everything was going to be for the best, I blocked her by cushioning the blow and we were both fell to the ground,” he said.
“Initially I didn’t feel any sign of life, then the baby started crying and I breathed a sigh of relief,” he said.
The girl’s parents came to the street once they realized what had happened, and first responders took the girl to hospital. He said the girl’s parents were in shock but the girl is “fine.”
The mayor of Turin, Stefano Lo Russo, called for Aguzzi to be honored.
“The actions of Mattia Aguzzi, our fellow citizen who this morning, catching [the girl] on the fly, saved the life of the little girl who fell from the fifth floor, is a heroic and extraordinary gesture,” Lo Russo wrote in a Facebook post.
Parliamentarian Camilla Laureti also said she hoped he would be given a national medal. “I propose that #MattiaAguzzi, who saved a girl who fell from the fifth floor, risking his own safety and probably his own life, be awarded the Gold Medal for Civil Valor!” she wrote in a post on the social media network X, previously known as Twitter.
Italy’s Prime Minister Meloni stopped short of calling for official recognition for the banker and instead thanked him.
“The story of a little girl who fell from a fith floor balcony in a building in Turin could have turned into tragedy. But thanks to the promptness of Mattia Aguzzi, who saw her fall and grabbed her in the air, her life is saved. Much honor and gratitude to this young hero,” she wrote on X on Sunday.
But the banker said he isn’t a hero. “Don’t call me a hero. I did everything so naturally. I didn’t think of anything and tried to do what had to be done,” he said, before joking that his extra weight helped him. “And in any case now they won’t tell me anymore that it’s better if I lose a little weight. It went well. What more could we want? Destiny put us there. Chance, fate. As far as I know, we’re all fine. And this, believe me, is the most beautiful thing.”
Italy’s Carabinieri security force are investigating the circumstances of the incident. CNN has reached out to Aguzzi for comment.