September 3, 2015 1:08 PM EDT

It’s an image that’s now been seen around the world: a little boy lying facedown and lifeless on a beach, his head being lapped by the waves.

The photo went viral on the Internet Thursday, sparking outrage and drawing attention to the worsening migrant crisis in Europe. The 3-year-old was part of a Syrian family fleeing Kobani, trapped in violence between Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

The family was trying to get to Greece from Turkey when their boat capsized. The little boy’s name was Aylan Kurdi and he was traveling with his mother Reha, his father Abdullah and his brother Galip, who was 5 years old, along with twelve other passengers. Aylan, Reha and Galip all drowned when the boat capsized; Abdullah survived.

Abdullah Kurdi told the Associated Press that the captain of the boat panicked in the rough seas and leaped overboard, leaving him temporarily in control of the boat. “I took over and started steering,” he said. “The waves were so high and the boat flipped. I took my wife and my kids in my arms and I realized they were all dead.”

Abdullah’s sister Teema lives in Vancouver and had applied to bring her brother and his family to Canada, but the request was denied in June by Canadian immigration officials. Teema says that Abdullah now plans to return to Kobani to bury his family and someday be buried alongside them.

“All I want is to be with my children at the moment,” he said.

Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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