A heroic Rutland zoo owner helped calm an 11-year-old boy after he plunged 200ft off a cliff - by telling him he was Captain America.
Jozef Mordawska, who runs Bugtopia the Zoo at Rutland Water, was fossil hunting with his family at the Valley of the Rocks near Lynton in Devon on Thursday last week.
While relaxing at a cafe in the valley, the family were approached by a woman who told him an 11-year-old American boy, originally from Los Angeles, and was visiting the area, had gone missing while walking with his family along the cliff tops.
Jozef and his 14-year-old daughter Anna-Rose decided to join the search for the missing youngster.
They went down to the beach and while Anna Rose returned to the rest of the family, while Jozef headed towards the rocks at the cliff-face.
Jozef heard a noise which he assumed to be a goat.
But as he approached, he was shocked to find a young boy lying face-down in a ravine.
He said: “The first thing I thought was he’s alive. I ran towards and said ‘I’m here for you now’.”
The barely conscious youngster was in a state of shock and tried to move when Jozef arrived.
To calm the panicking child down, Jozef, who regularly dresses as superhero Captain America for events at the zoo, told him he was Captain America, while shielding him from falling rocks.
Jozef said: “I said ‘Look you are really lucky - in my day job I’m Captain America - and that seemed to calm him down.
“I said to him ‘Would you stay as still as possible until the paramedics get here for you’.”
Jozef, 35, called emergency services on his mobile phone.
As they made their way to the scene, Jozef, a trained first aider, spotted an RNLI lifeboat which was doing an exercise in the area and flagged it down.
The crew then rushed to the boy’s aid.
As he was being treated, Jozef stayed with the boy and continued to calm him while maintaining his Captain America persona.
Jozef said: “I felt like an idiot but it was the only way to calm him down. I told him that his family were all safe at the top. It was just the best thing to do.”
Firefighters, paramedics, the air ambulance and a coastguard helicopter also attended the scene.
The boy was winched up to the air ambulance and was airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, suffering with back and leg injuries.
He was later transferred to Bristol Hospital, where on Monday his condition was described as serious but stable condition. At the time of going to press, police were unable to confirm the boy’s current condition.
After the incident, as a father himself with a daughter the same age, Jozef struggled to sleep worrying about the youngster.
But he denied he was a real-life superhero for his actions, saying his actions were instinctive.
He said: “I didn’t do it for me, I did it for him and his family - that was the most important thing for me.
“I wouldn’t want to find my kid in that condition.”
Leigh Hanks, of RNLI Ilfracombe, who was in charge of the incident, said: “The fact we were already on exercise in the area was a blessing and I would like to thank the member of the public who signalled to us - these extra minutes gave our casualty the best possible chance.”
Jozef and his family were in Devon enjoying there first family holiday together in five years. He was with his parents Warren and Helen Farnell, partner Natalia Matts, and other children and Newton, three months, Darwin, two, and Eli, eight, and Ella, 11.
Now Jozef is just hoping the boy makes a swift recovery and that he’s able to fulfil his promise he made to him on the beach of visiting him in hospital - dressed of course in his superhero outfit.
Jozef said: “I told him Captain America would come and visit him in the hospital so we hope he can recover and I wish him all the best.”