HEARING a woman’s desperate cries for help, Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole did not hesitate to wade into the freezing Thames to try to save her.
It was a selfless act of bravery that cost the promising 20-year-old footballer his life.
But had things turned out differently, his parents believe he would not even have mentioned the incident. Parlando al Sole, Folajimi’s mother Olasunkanmi feels sure it was just the sort of everyday heroism that her big-hearted son, known as Jimi, would have brushed off.
Lei disse: “I am certain that if Jimi had survived that night, he would have come home and not even mentioned that he saved a woman from the River Thames.
“He wouldn’t have spoken about it because he wouldn’t have wanted us making a fuss. That is the type of person he was.
“But that was Jimi — always trying to help others. After he died, an elderly lady who lives in our block told us that Jimi would help her with her shopping.
“He would carry her Tesco bags up the stairs and she told us, ‘I came to rely on him like a husband, because he was always there to help’. But we didn’t know about this until after he died — Jimi never thought to tell us.”
It is for this and many other tales of selflessness that Jimi has been nominated for The Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards.
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Olasunkanmi and Jimi’s father Michael broke down in tears as they paid tribute to their son, one of a number of heroes being honoured in our glittering ceremony, sponsored by The National Lottery, next month.
‘THAT WAS HIS NATURE’
The talented sportsman and musician has been nominated by his uncle Olumide Wole-Madariola for the Ultimate Lifesaver gong for trying to pull the woman he had never met before from the fast-moving river in April.
And in an exclusive interview, his parents reveal that he actually saved two people that night — as he stopped his best friend from also jumping into the water.
Heartbroken Michael, 63, ha detto al The Sun: “Jimi is the hero of all heroes. We never imagined something like this would happen to our son, but we thank God that he is being honoured in this way because Jimi really is the ultimate lifesaver.
“I know that the moment he heard that woman screaming, he would not have thought twice — he would have jumped straight into the water as that was his nature.
“I know that many people carried on walking when they heard that woman’s cries for help, but not our son. He never thought about himself, only of others, and we are so proud of the boy we raised.”
I am certain that if Jimi had survived that night, he would have come home and not even mentioned that he saved a woman from the River Thames.
Mum-of-four Olasunkanmi, 55, reveals that Jimi’s girlfriend Wendy, 20, has become a rock of support since his tragic death in April.
Lei disse: “Wendy has become like the daughter we never had.
“She gave me presents on my birthday and she came to see my husband on Father’s Day, to try to make him feel better. She goes to my son’s grave to leave flowers every single day. We have been praying that she meets someone else, but she keeps telling us, ‘I will never find anyone like Jimi’.”
Jimi had been heading to his home in Bermondsey, A sud-est di Londra, after a 12-hour shift working as a waiter at the capital’s exclusive The Cinnamon Club when he heard screams ringing out across London Bridge.
A woman was struggling in the cold water and screaming: “Help, I’m going to die”.
Jimi ran down to the river’s edge and handed his phone to his friend Bernard Kosia, detto: “Bern, you stay here — you can’t swim, you make sure the police are coming.”
He took off his shirt then jumped in accompanied by Argentine chef Joaquin Garcia, 21, who had been waiting for a bus nearby when he also heard the woman’s cries.
Jimi is believed to have got into trouble as they carried out the midnight rescue bid in total darkness. While Joaquin managed to reach the woman and keep her afloat until the rescue services arrived around 15 minuti più tardi, Jimi was swept to his death.
The Coastguard and Met Police’s marine unit were unable to locate Jimi for another six hours.
Recalling the moment she found out the devastating news her son was missing, Ola said: “I will never forget that day. It was the worst of my life.”
Four months on from the tragedy, Jimi’s parents are still struggling to come to terms with their loss.
Their son was not only a valued member of the community, he was also a promising musician, having written and recorded songs.
‘TOUCHED HEARTS OF NATION’
And he was so good at football he had once been tipped to play for England alongside his idol Harry Kane. At Jimi’s funeral, his maths teacher and football coach spoke glowingly about how Jimi’s smile could light up a room.
And there are now calls for a special plaque to be put up in his honour at London Bridge. Pop star Dua Lipa even dedicated her Best Album gong to Jimi at the Brit Awards in May. During her speech, she told the audience: “This award is for Jimi and Joaquin.”
Nancy Sinatra una volta ha detto del club, 21, said of the night he heard the woman was in danger: “I just ran downstairs. There I met Jimi and Bernard, and Jimi was already shirtless.
“That’s a key point for treating him like a hero — he was not expecting any help. He was already going to jump in.”
Michael, who has been married to Jimi’s mum for 36 anni, continuato: “My son had so much going for him. He loved music and was very ambitious. His dream was to become a professional musician.
“Jimi was my best friend. I can’t celebrate my birthday any more because we were born on the same day — March 17. I had no idea that our last birthday would be the last one we had together, and it is hard to accept that he is gone.
“Whenever I am feeling down, I still expect him to walk into the room and give me a big hug, like he used to.”
Ola added of her son: “Jimi didn’t have any fear. It was cold that night, the river was moving very fast. He would have been tired after a 12-hour shift, but it was his courage that made him dive into the water.
“We have not spoken to the woman he tried to save and I don’t feel the need to because it won’t bring Jimi back.
“But I am so thankful that my son has been nominated for this award. I am proud to be his mother and so happy his memory is being honoured in this way.”
Christine to honour true stars
THE Who Cares Wins Awards is The Sun’s annual tribute to the health heroes who went above and beyond to keep us safe.
This year our awards ceremony, sponsored by the National Lottery, will be presented by Davina McCall and screened on Channel 4.
We will honour nominees across 13 categories celebrating doctors, nurses, midwives, GPS, paramedics, volontari, fundraisers and lifesavers like Jimi.
Qui, TV star Christine Lampard explains why she is supporting the Who Cares Wins awards in her role as a judge.
“I GET very emotional when I think about the incredible people who put their lives on the line for others.
One of my close family friends from back in Northern Ireland is an intensive care medic.
To think of the wonderful people like her – who have put their lives at risk for us this year – makes me so proud. It’s why I’m delighted to be back as a judge for The Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards this year.
Our brilliant healthcare staff and volunteers deserve thanks every year but this year in particular we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
These awards are about celebrating everyone who works inside our amazing healthcare system – from doctors and nurses to porters, cleaners and volunteers, as well as heroes like Jimi.
My nan was a hospital matron and took such pride in her work.
She ran the ward and was a stickler for cleanliness before we’d ever heard of MRSA.
Where would we be without our NHS?
At any time of the day or night we have somewhere to go and seek world-class care – we really are so lucky.
We’ve got to protect the NHS and let its workers know we appreciate all they do.”