'Superman' Has Saved 25 Jumpers in His Fishing Boat

The fisherman has saved 25 people in almost 15 years.

ByABC News
September 25, 2012, 7:12 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia, Sept. 25, 2012— -- If you bumped into him on the street, Renato Grbic might not strike you as a modern-day superhero.

The shaven-headed, tattooed Belgrade fisherman is no Clark Kent. Yet, his watchful eyes and quick reactions to events at the Pancevo Bridge have earned him the title of "Superman of the Danube." Instead of a cape, he has used his small boat to record 25 lives saved, so far.

"There's nothing to beat the adrenaline when you save a life. When I hear the splash in the water, my heart starts beating faster, and there is only one question on my mind. Will I get there in time?"

Grbic, 51, is an athletically fit man with a friendly face and a firm handshake who morphed into his superhero status over time.

"About 15 years ago I was with my brother on the river. Back then people used to throw rubbish off the bridge, and when something hit the water we thought that someone had thrown a tire from up there. But a couple of minutes later I noticed that it wasn't sinking. When we approached, we saw that it was a young man. I gave him my hand and took him to the shore. My brother offered him a cigarette. I remember that he smoked almost the whole pack in just 15 minutes," Grbic says recalling his first rescue.

Since then he has saved another 24 people from the water, but despite the emotions of the moment, he does not keep in touch with them.

"At first I tried to talk to them, but most of the people who jump are mentally ill and it's difficult to communicate with them. They don't talk. Like a broken TV, you have an image, but you can't hear the sound," says Grbic.

The last person he saved several days ago was a 22-year-old woman named Alisa who tried to take her own life because of love. "I asked her, why did you do it?" "Because of my boyfriend," she replied shortly.

The only person who Grbic has kept in touch with is a girl he saved six years ago.

"I remember I was with some friends and family at a restaurant. We were outside, because it was a sunny Sunday in January. The girl's parents were driving with her over the bridge and her father slowed down for traffic. She used the opportunity to run from the car and threw herself over the bridge. She was 18 back then."

"It was a matter of seconds. The water was so cold that you couldn't hold a finger in it for more than a minute. That day my boat was the only one on the water, because during the winter, we draw our boats up on the bank when we aren't out fishing. The engine started at the first attempt," he said.

Grbic says that since the rescue, the young woman has gone on to marry and have a baby.

"Every year in January, the girl comes back to see me and together we celebrate her second birthday," says the fisherman. "That is my reward."

However, fate also delivered a cruel twist.

"While I was attending her wedding, two girls jumped from the bridge, but there was no one to try to save them."

Happy endings are not common for the people who Grbic saves.

"People tell me that those who jump from the bridge are born suicides. If they try once, eventually they do it. About seven years ago, my brother and I dragged a middle-aged postman from the river and a month later in the newspapers I saw a familiar face. It was the same man. He had committed suicide in his apartment," says Grbic.

Most jump during the day. "They are trying to attract attention. That jump is a call for help," he says.