'It was like slow motion,' says Filipino nurse who provided first aid to Dublin stabbing victim

By Isaac M November 28, 2023

A Filipino nurse who provided crucial first aid to one of the Dublin stabbing victims has described responding to the traumatic incident and his fear of anti-immigrant violence.

Leo Villamayor, who has worked as an agency nurse in various Dublin hospitals for several years, came across the horrific attack last Thursday, as he was walking to a graduation ceremony at the Gresham hotel in the city.

“I saw this fight, but I thought it was an ordinary fight,” he told Sky News.

“Suddenly, there was a man holding a knife running across the road, and I was like ‘Oh my God, where will I go now?’.”

Mr Villamayor had stumbled across the scene as a man armed with a knife lunged at children near a primary school on Parnell Square East, injuring three of the children and an adult woman working as their carer.

“I just remember there were children, they were running, and screaming,” he said.

“Small little children, boys and girls, I could see on their faces that they were terrified and scared. I didn’t know what was going on, but they were helpless.”

Leo Villamayor, who is from the Philippines, has worked as an agency nurse in various Dublin hospitals for several years. He provided first aid to a young girl who was injured in a stabbing in Dublin.

‘It was all in slow-mo’

Mr Villamayor said: “I saw this little girl, she was running and then slowly everything just stopped, she just collapsed on the floor.

“She was gasping, she needed urgent immediate attention. I tried to see if she was breathing, if there was a pulse. I just started doing compressions – CPR.

“I suddenly heard the ambulance behind us, I heard the defibrillator was there, and someone pushed me away from the scene.

“Two men put the defibrillator on her chest, and a woman beside me took over. It was like a movie scene, all in slo-mo.”

The scene near several stabbing in Dublin city centre
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The scene near a stabbing attack

‘They’re innocent, they have a lot of future awaiting them’

As the nurse battled to save the young girl, he knew she had been seriously wounded.

“All the time I was doing CPR there, I was thinking repeatedly, please give me a reaction. I was afraid I wasn’t doing it properly. I was questioning myself, I was questioning everything.”

The following day was Mr Villamayor’s birthday.

“If I only had one wish for my birthday, it was just to give life to the child,” he said.

“I wished for her to live – that she would have a normal life – because it’s so unfair for children to endure this kind of trauma and violence. They’re innocent, they have a lot of future awaiting them.”

In shock, Mr Villamayor left the scene to attend the graduation ceremony, where concerned friends comforted him. By the time he left, a full-scale riot was in the process of enveloping the city centre.

‘People are scared’

Anti-immigrant rhetoric – stoked by speculation over the attacker’s nationality – led to an attempt by some far-right figures to breach the crime scene.

Police were assaulted, and pelted with fireworks. Soon, opportunistic criminal elements joined in and Dublin was on fire.

Burnt out bus and smashed windows on the Luas on O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland.
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A burnt-out bus on O’Connell Street in Dublin

Smashed windows on the Luas on O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland.
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Smashed windows on a tram following the riots

For Mr Villamayor, already traumatised by the scenes he witnessed at the scene of the stabbing, the anti-immigrant violence added a terrifying new layer to his anguish.

He says the Sky News interview is the first time in days he has left his house.

“People are scared. I myself, after three days, four days, this is my first time going out because I’m scared people would recognise me. But if I’m to be scared, fill myself with fear, it will just foster [more] violence.”

The Filipino nurse joined other witnesses, including Brazilian Deliveroo rider Caio Benicio and 17-year-old French trainee chef Alan Loren-Guille, in coming to the victim’s aid.

Mr Benicio used his helmet to help subdue the attacker, while Mr Loren-Guille suffered cuts as he wrestled the knife away, winning praise from French President Emmanuel Macron.

Caio Benicio, a Deliveroo driver, is at the scene in Dublin city centre after he witnessed the incident on Parnell Square East, where five people were injured, including three young children. Caio had been on a job when he came across the scene and intervened. Picture date: Friday November 24, 2023.
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Caio Benicio, a Deliveroo driver, who used his helmet to help subdue the attacker

Read more from Sky News:
Thousands raised for Deliveroo driver who helped halt Dublin attack
Dublin riots: Everything we know about knife attack and clashes

As they joined Irish witnesses like Dubliner Siobhan Kearney in racing to help, Mr Villamayor feels the mix of nationalities is “ironic”, given the anti-migrant anger that would later erupt.

“People are so angry because of people immigrating to Ireland, because of one single act, people generalise everything.

“We shouldn’t generalise everyone. Every one of us wants the best for us, our family, our children.

“It’s a matter of understanding each other and being tolerant of each other, we have different cultures. I’m from a different country, it’s just a matter of trying to understand each other and help each other.”

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Arson and looting after Dublin stabbings

‘I’m a staunch believer in Ireland’

He dismisses suggestions of heroism, because “everyone is a hero. Everyone has the capacity to empathise, everyone”.

Mr Villamayor is seeking counselling to help him process the events of last Thursday. But despite everything, he retains an unbowed optimism about his adopted homeland.

“I’m a staunch believer that Ireland… Dublin city… is a loving country, a generous country, is a generous city – for everyone. For visitors, for immigrants, for the children, for the teachers.”

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