Parish priest Fr Stefano Garzegno lost his life yesterday after rescuing seven children who got into difficulties swimming in the Adriatic near the resort of Termoli. The children, altar boys and choir members aged 12-14, who were on a parish outing from the town of Bojano, went swimming despite rough conditions. Although the water was shallow, they suddenly found themselves in deep water being swept out to sea. Hearing their cries, Fr Stefano, 44, who was described as an expert swimmer, first rescued one group of three or four children and then went back for the rest. But he collapsed and died shortly afterward. Doctors believe he may have fainted from exhaustion or suffered a heart attack due to the strain and that his lungs then filled with water. Fr Stephano originally came from Verona. In the past he had taken groups to the mountains. This was the first parish visit to the seaside. The town of Bojano is now in mourning for Fr Stephano, who had only been with them for a year. Roberto Colacillo, the mayor of Bojano, said the priest was a hero: "It is thanks to him seven of our children are still alive." Fr Stephano's elderly parents recently moved to Bojano from Verona to be with their son. His father, Pietro, said the priest was a "pied piper figure" for the young. A parishioner said "In the year since he came to Bojano he became loved by all. He was much appreciated for his work with the children. It was for them that he gave his life."
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