The police officer who discovered Aylan's lifeless body washed up on a Turkish shore said he was "crushed deep down" when he realised the little boy was dead.
Mehmet Ciplak was pictured carefully carrying the three-year-old from the beach in Bodrum on Wednesday.
The photograph triggered an outpouring of sympathy with hundreds of people leaving bouquets of flowers at the scene and throwing petals into the sea as a tribute.
But, speaking for the first time about the tragedy, Mr Ciplak revealed he did not know the picture was being taken and was instead praying the little boy was still alive.
He told The Mirror: "When I saw the baby on the beach, I approached the baby and said to myself: "Dear God, I hope he's alive".
"When I found out he was dead, I was crushed deep down inside. It was a terrible sight, it was a terrible loss."
Aylan, his brother Galip, five, and his mother Rehan all drowned after their boat capsized in the Aegean Sea as they tried to make the perilous crossing from Syria to Kos.
His father Abdullah survived and later described how he had pleaded with his sons to keep breathing, telling them he didn't want them to die.
Abdullah's sister Tima, speaking after the tragic incident, said the grief-stricken father had relived the final moments of his boys' lives in a phone conversation.
She said: "When a bigger wave came and flipped the boat upside down, Abdullah right away caught both his kids and tried so hard with all the power he had to keep them up from the water, screaming, "Breathe, breathe, I don't want you to die!"
"Then he looked at Aylan and could see blood from his eyes, so he closed them and said: "Rest in peace my son"."
The young Kurdish-Syrian family had fled their home town of Kobane after fighters with Islamic State laid siege to their city.
The town, which is in northern Syria close to the border of Turkey, has been at the centre of a battle between the extremist group and Kurdish fighters for almost a year.
The Kurds, backed by US-led air strikes, defeated the jihadists and seized control of the city in January.
But in June ISIS fighters attacked the city, detonating a suicide bomb and forcing Kurdish forces to battle in the streets.
Abdullah, his sons and wife were trying to join relatives in Canada after an application to sponsor the family failed in June.
Meanwhile, thousands of exhausted migrants arrived in Munich and Frankfurt on special trains from Austria on Saturday after being invited by Angela Merkel.
They had fled to Budapest in search of asylum earlier this week but resorted to marching the 110-miles to the Austrian border after some were tricked into boarding trains to designated migrant camps where they feared they would face reprisals from the country's far-right officials.
They will be registered in Germany and housed temporarily in military barracks and training schools across the country.
More than £1million (NZ$2.44million) has been raised by Britain with communities across the country setting up groups to collect clothes, tents and other emergency items to help with the aid effort.
Many people, including Bob Geldof, have offered to house refugees in their own homes.
- Daily Mail