Teenage Syrian refugee 'saved the day' after rescuing toddler from Hamilton rooftop

Meet Khalid Tabateb, a Syrian refugee who pulled a toddler to safety after the child wandered onto a Hamilton rooftop on Wednesday.

Khalid Tabateb, 18, also helped his father rescue a child who was shot when they were living in Syria

Khalid Tabateb sprang into action Wednesday, breaking through a first-floor window of a Hamilton apartment building and rescuing a toddler who had wandered onto the rooftop. (CBC photo collage)

When Khalid Tabateb saw a toddler walking unsteadily along the edge of a Hamilton rooftop he didn't stop to think. He leapt into action.

The 18-year-old was driving past a King Street East apartment building with his father Wednesday when they saw the child wearing only a diaper, who had woken up from a nap, squeezed through a second-storey window and wandered out onto the rooftop.

Other people from the neighbourhood had gathered and were prepared to try and catch the child if he fell.

Khalid yelled at his dad to stop the car.

"My dad parked the car and said 'If you can help him go help him,'" said Khalid, through his older sister Farah who acted as interpreter. "I was scared. I didn't want this little guy to go and die. I didn't want to just watch."

Toddler on Hamilton rooftop rescued by passerby

5 years ago
Duration 0:07
A toddler teetering on a central Hamilton rooftop was rescued by a passerby before he could fall.

The teen rattled the home's doorknob and rapped on windows. When no one answered, he broke through the screen of a first-floor window, sprinted up stairs and pulled the baby back inside.

Saving the day

Navdeep Narula watched the rescue from across the road. He said there were some tense moments when the baby lost his balance.

"At that point my heart kind of came out of my mouth," he said. "It was like, wow!"

He describes Khalid as a hero who "saved the day."

Hamilton police were called to the scene and are reminding parents to make sure all doors and windows are secure in order to keep children safe.

Police are not investigating the incident as a criminal matter, and credited Khalid's quick thinking with helping to save the child.

That instinct to act, despite danger, is something Khalid's family says he learned years ago in war-torn Syria, when he and his father ran out into the street to bring to safety a two-year-old who had been shot in the legs.

They set a good example of the Syrian refugee families who are here … to make Hamilton and Canada a better place.- Sayed Tora, Imam of the Muslim Association of Hamilton

The teen said that on Wednesday he wasn't thinking about the last time he saved a life. He was focused on making sure the little boy didn't fall to his death.

"He loves to help people," Farah said. "He's so brave. The whole family — we're so proud of him."

The Tabatebs came to Hamilton as refugees in 2014. Farah said they first fled to Jordan to escape the civil war in Syria, but wanted to come to Canada for a chance at a better life.

Making Hamilton 'a better place'

Sayed Tora is the Imam of the Muslim Association of Hamilton and one of the first people who helped the Tabatebs get settled in their new home.

A crowd of passersby gathered below the child to catch him in case he fell. (6ixbuzz/Facebook)

He said Khalid, a Grade 12 student at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School, is active in the community and loves to play sports.

"They're a really lovely family with bright young kids," said Sayed, adding the teenager's actions show bravery.

"They set a good example of the Syrian refugee families who are here to build a life and to build a future for their children and to make Hamilton and Canada a better place."


Dan Taekema


Dan Taekema is CBC’s reporter covering Kingston, Ont. and the surrounding area. He’s worked in newsrooms in Chatham, Windsor, Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa. You can reach him by emailing daniel.taekema@cbc.ca.