Police have blamed parental neglect for the death of a young girl who fell from a balcony on Wednesday night. The girl, aged five and identified by her initials SZ, fell to her death from a second-storey balcony of an apartment block in Al Ain, police said. Investigating officers said the circumstances surrounding the girl's death, in which her parents had left children playing unsupervised in a room adjacent to an open balcony, showed "obvious neglect".
Ambulance crews and police officers rushed to the scene of the accident and the child, an Arab national, was taken to hospital, where she died. Criminal Investigation Department officials have visited the scene to investigate the accident. The tragedy comes just weeks before the end of a summer-long campaign encouraging parents to pay more attention to the safety of young children and warning about the dangers of leaving them unsupervised.
The campaign was prompted by a rise in the number of accidents and deaths involving children. More than 6,146 children were involved in accidents between 2001 and 2007. This has been marked by spiralling figures of fatal parental negligence cases in the emirate. More than 220 children died in 2007 after falling from balconies or windows compared with only 16 in 2001. Hundreds more died from suffocation, drowning, electric shock, overheating in locked cars or other serious injuries, Abu Dhabi police said.
Last year, police investigated 1,662 accidents that resulted in the death or injury of a child, a 2,000 per cent rise from 2001, when 81 cases were reported. In all cases, police said that closer adult supervision could have prevented the tragedy. Under Abu Dhabi law, parents are investigated as a matter of procedure when children under the age of six are involved in accidents. "Keeping children safe is not the responsibility of police, it is the responsibility of all and that's why I call upon society to keep our children safe," said Brig Omair al Muhairi, the director of the Capital Police Directorate, at the launch of the parental awareness campaign in May. The campaign, called Their Lives are Precious, encouraged parents to practise better supervision or invest in professional child care. Parents were also urged to use safety equipment such as cribs, metal window barriers and child minders.
"In many of these cases, it appeared that the mother would leave the house to run some errands with her child left alone," Brig Muhairi said at the launch. "She would come back and find that the child had fallen off the building." The campaign is scheduled to end in the middle of next month. Wednesday night's tragedy recalled a similar accident in Abu Dhabi in early April, when Ahmad Salim, also aged five, fell from the 10th floor of a high-rise apartment building after being left unsupervised. He plunged to his death after reaching out and opening a window from a sofa. His parents were out shopping when it happened.