(ORDO NEWS) — Swiss photographer René Robert died of hypothermia after he fell and was ignored by all the people who walked past him for nine hours.
The death of an 85-year-old man who reportedly died of hypothermia after he fell and spent nine hours lying unconscious and ignored on a cold street in central Paris has sparked mourning, anger and bewilderment in France and beyond.
René Robert, a Swiss photographer known for photographing Spain’s most famous flamenco stars, died last week after slipping during one of his nightly walks in the busy Parisian quarter where he lived.According to his friend, journalist Michel Momponte, Robert fell on Rue Turbot, between Place de la République and Les Halles.
“He got dizzy and fell down,” Momponte wrote. “Unable to get up, he lay in the cold for nine hours, until one of the homeless called the rescue service. Too late. He had hypothermia, and he could not fight for life.” During these nine hours, not a single passer-by stopped to check why this man was lying on the sidewalk. No one”.
Momponte, who also spoke about the circumstances of his friend’s death on France TV Info, said that Robert was “killed by indifference”, adding: “If this terrible death could serve any purpose, it would be: when a man is lying on the pavement, we have to check on him – no matter how busy we are. Let’s stop for a second.”
Momponte noted that many people – including himself – often look the other way when it comes to people on the street. “Before giving any lessons or blaming anyone, I have to deal with one small issue that makes me feel uncomfortable,” the journalist told France TV Info. “Am I 100 percent sure that I would stop if I were presented with such a scene – a man on the ground? Haven’t I ever turned away from a homeless person lying in a doorway?”
The death, which occurred in an area of Paris where many homeless people sleep on the street, sparked a debate about civic responsibility and basic human decency.
The headline in the newspaper Le Figaro read: “Photographer René Robert, died of indifference in the middle of the street.”The Spanish Embassy in the Netherlands tweeted: “The death of René Robert, who immortalized all the great flamenco artists with his camera, challenges our collective conscience.”
Robert, who has photographed flamenco legends including Camarón de la Isla and Paco de Lucia, remembered another of his recent works.
“I am very saddened by the loss of René Robert, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing with him,” said Grammy-winning flamenco singer Arcangel. “I can’t understand why no one helped him; I don’t want to think that we live in a society that has so few values.”
The Olivar Association, which has been working with young homeless people in Madrid for over 30 years, said it was saddened but not surprised. “Many people are talking about the horror story of René Robert,” the tweet read. “But the reality is that this is a brutal, everyday experience for those who live and die on the street. What is happening to us as a society that this can happen?”
According to homeless associations, 600 people die on the streets of France every year.
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