12/11/2013 01:55 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Passing Officer Catches Toddler Falling From 2nd-Floor Window

A former goalkeeper recently put his quick reflexes to good use.

Luigi Barbanera, who now works as a guard at an Italian penitentiary, was passing by a building in Cantù on Dec. 9 when he noticed a commotion. A young child was leaning dangerously over the ledge of a second-floor window. So the 45-year-old did the only thing he could think of -- he positioned himself under the windowsill and caught the falling toddler in the nick of time.

Though the impact of the fall knocked both Barbanera and the 23-month-old Ryan to the ground, it seems the older man was able to cushion the blow. Neither was injured in the accident.

"To tell you the truth, in the moment I felt completely powerless. I didn't even know what I would do. Five minutes passed before I saw the baby move its leg forward wearily and fall," Barbanera told Italian-language newspaper Corriere della Sera.

According to local reports, the toddler's mother left her sleeping child alone momentarily while she hung laundry up to dry. When she returned to discover the 23-month-old was missing, she rushed down to street level and discovered the boy was safe in the officer's arms.

Now, Barbanera is being hailed as a hero in Italy for his quick thinking. The penitentiary officer is expected to receive a commendation from Italy's minister of justice, and will also be considered for a civic merit award bestowed by the mayor of Cantù.

But Barbanera believes he was just in the right place at the right time to make the life-saving catch. "Fate made me pass by the road at that time," he told Corriere della Sera.



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