When two teenage girls got into trouble swimming in a lake in Dazhou, their companion, a boy called Wu Bo, tried to save them himself but had to make the tough decision to leave them to go find help. Both girls drowned and now the families are demanding 500,000 yuan in compensation. They, along with a minority of netizens, are holding Wu Bo accountable for not saving his friends. A huge debate has ensued online around whether or not Wu Bo had a legal or moral duty to save the girls.
Wu Bo, together with another boy and two girls had decided to go on a day trip to Lotus Lake in Dazhou. When the other boy went to find a toilet, Wu Bo suddenly heard the screaming and realised that both girls, neither of whom could swim, had fallen into the lake. He swam towards the girls and managed to grab onto one of their hands, not knowing whose it was. Desperately, he tried his best to hold on, but not being a very strong swimmer himself, Wu Bo was starting to choke and drown also. He held on for as long as he could, but the girl was too heavy for him to hold onto. At that point, he made the tough decision to let go of her hand so as to save himself and find another way of getting help. In the end, the water was just too deep, the location too remote, and they were not properly equipped to deal with the emergency. Despite receiving help from a nearby speedboat, it was too late. One of the bodies was recovered half an hour later, and the other’s was found later that evening.
In an interview with reporters last week, Wu Bo was visibly shaken, haunted by the terrible incident and filled with remorse.
“I feel bad, I hate myself for not being able to save them, I have let them down,” he said.
The police confirmed that they will not be holding him accountable for the deaths.
Zhang Tian Hong, a Sichuan lawyer, said that Wu Bo is not legally accountable or responsible for the lives of the girls, as he did not cause the accident in the first place. He distinguished between letting go of the girl’s hand to save himself vs looking on and not helping a dying person (eg when dozens of bystanders watched on as a woman drowned in the Huangpu River), arguing that a key prerequisite to being able to save someone is possessing adequate strength and/or relevant life-saving techniques. Take the Chongqing student who jumped in Minzhu lake to save his suicidal classmate for example – though he had no experience, he was at the very least a strong swimmer. In the absence of those qualities, he argues that Wu Bo was perfectly within his rights to save himself.
The victims’ families, however, are more keen to play the blame game. They insist that both boys (including the one who left to go to the toilet when the accident unfolded) are accountable and insist on making them pay, literally, demanding 500,000 yuan from each boy.
Weibo users are on the whole very supportive of Wu Bo and admire him for his bravery, though a minority (presumably people who have never tried to support another person in the water) blamed him for not saving the girl he had hold of.