DUBAI // Family and friends paid tribute to a newlywed man who they said drowned in a rip tide at the weekend as residents called for improved safety measures to protect against dangerous currents.
Crismon Thomas, 28, from Kerala, was swimming with friends about 2pm on Saturday when he encountered trouble.
Binoy Stephen, a colleague, said friends had tried in vain to help after Mr Thomas was caught by a rip tide. Relatives and friends said he was not a strong swimmer.
"He raised the alarm for help, but he could not be rescued in time. Someone at the beach tried to pull him to safety, but he was dead by then," said Mr Stephen, the human resources manager at Bosco Aluminium and Glass Company in Sharjah.
Mr Thomas, a sales manager at Bosco since 2007, married only six months ago. Relatives said his wife, a nurse at a private hospital, was not present when he drowned.
On the same day Mr Thomas died one Dubai resident said he and a friend pulled out more than 10 struggling people from the water at Jumeirah Beach Residence Beach.
David Capps, a delivery manager at an Abu Dhabi firm, said he had witnessed too many swimmers fall prey to dangerous currents and said warning flags were needed to alert people to rip tides. "They should put up flags on either side of a rip current," he said.
"I don't think beaches should be closed altogether, but they should ban swimming in the immediate area of an active rip current.
"We need trained patrols on the beaches to spot rip currents and help pull people out in an emergency."
Mr Capps said people often did not know how to spot such currents or handle them. When he and his friend intervened, he said, there were strong currents and big waves.
"We watched countless people walk straight into the unmarked rip current and on four separate occasions we had to run in to retrieve swimmers in extreme distress," the Australian said.
"Some were screaming for their lives and were moments from drowning after having been swept out 30 metres and trying in vain to swim back in.
"We pulled in 10 people and another guy brought in five or six [people] in two hours."
A senior lifeguard at Dubai Municipality said the seas were rough on Saturday and they had to close half of the Jumeirah Open Beach because of the bad weather.
"We asked tourists to keep away from the beach because of the rough sea conditions," Majdi Tag said. He said the municipality had 33 lifeguards manning different beaches in Dubai, including Al Mamzar, Jumeirah Park and Jumeirah Open Beach. He said there were no lifeguards at other areas, such as Umm Suqeim beach near Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Residence Beach, and Dubai Marina.
"It is advised for people to swim in beaches where there are lifeguards. They should also follow the flag unfurled. People should not swim when there is a red flag," he said.
Mr Thomas's friends and relatives said the incident occurred in the Dubai Marina area, but Mr Stephen said it was Jumeirah Open Beach. A witness identified the location as Jumeirah Beach Residence Beach. Dubai police were not immediately available to provide details.
Jomi Thomas, the drowned man's cousin, said when he heard of the incident he went to Rashid Hospital and was devastated to see Mr Thomas's body. He said Mr Thomas had two sisters and parents who were living in India.
"We are shocked over his death. He was a very good person," he said. The body was sent to India on Monday for final rites to be performed.
In March, three men drowned due to rough sea conditions, forcing police to close the beaches as a safety precaution. Two of the men drowned opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence at Dubai Marina and the third died near the Burj Al Arab.
Residents have regularly pressed for increased lifeguards on beaches, signboards with diagrams and tips on currents. Earlier this year, Surf Dubai, a surfing institute, launched a campaign to educate people on the different currents.
If swimmers find themselves caught in a rip tide they should swim parallel to the beach to first escape the rip, then swim to shore to avoid exhaustion and being pulled farther out to sea.