x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 December 2017

Drowning death of boy, 9, in Dubai was ‘preventable’

Residents of New Gold Souq apartment tower in Bur Dubai are seething after what they describe as the “preventable” death of a nine-year-old boy in their communal swimming pool.

Bony Joseph Junior who drowned at a friend's birthday party in Karama.
Bony Joseph Junior who drowned at a friend's birthday party in Karama.

DUBAI // Residents of New Gold Souq apartment tower in Bur Dubai are seething after what they describe as the “preventable” death of a nine-year-old boy in their communal swimming pool on Tuesday.

Bonie Joseph Junior was attending a friend’s birthday party with 10 other children when he drowned. His body was removed from the pool at 7pm and rushed to Latifa Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

“This accident could have been avoided if there had been a lifeguard,” said Captain Sunil Saraf, a resident of New Gold Souq.

The building used to have a lifeguard but he was removed a few months ago. Capt Saraf said residents had made repeated requests to building management to rehire a guard, but “they never bothered to take the matter seriously”.

“The swimming pool remained unattended, even today. And the door of the pool is always open making it easy for kids to enter the area,” Capt Saraf said.

Another resident, who did not wish to be identified, said: “There are at least 200 families staying in the building and many of them are not good at swimming. The presence of a lifeguard would help a lot in avoiding accidents.”

According to municipal guidelines, communal swimming pools must have a qualified lifeguard on duty, or risk a Dh3,000 fine.

Sultan Essa Al Suwaidi, head of the safety section in the Public Health and Safety Department, said the municipality would investigate the boy’s death.

“We have received the notification but we haven’t got the full report. We don’t know what happened,” he said. “We will have to find out how the children got outside, where the parents were ... at this point nothing is clear.”

The owner of the apartment block could not be reached for comment, but security guards at the tower said they had put up notices warning parents not to let children use the pool unattended.

Bonie’s father, Bonie Joseph Senior, said he never would have allowed his son to attend the party if he had known the children would be swimming.

“I dropped him off at his classmate’s party and told him I’d see him later. Then, 45 minutes later, I got a call saying something had happened and I must get there urgently.”

A witness at the party said the children had been playing in the corridor before deciding to go up to the pool.

Supervising adults did not immediately accompany them upstairs because there were older children in the group. However, witnesses say a number of parents were on the roof when the children started screaming that something was wrong with Bonie.

A woman pulled his lifeless body from the water and began CPR, while another bystander called security, an ambulance and Bonie’s parents.

Mr Joseph said that by the time he reached the scene, his son’s body was being transferred into an ambulance.

“I was shocked when I saw him. He was fine just a few minutes earlier. I rushed to the hospital following the ambulance but my son’s life could not be saved,” he said.

The mother of the birthday boy said she was wracked with guilt and unable to sleep. “I cannot believe this could have happened on a birthday,” she said. “My son is struggling to overcome it; Bonie was his best friend."

The Joseph family, who come from Cochin in Kerala, have lived in the UAE for about 10 years. Mr Joseph works as a manager at Weir Oil and Gases in Jebel Ali, Dubai, while his wife is a full-time housewife. The couple have one surviving daughter, who is in kindergarten.

Afsal Majeed, a family friend, said the father and son were very attached. “They both bought bicycles last month to ride together. They got on really well,” said Mr Majeed.

“I wouldn’t have sent my son to the party if I had known that he would be going to the pool; he does not know how to swim,” said Mr Joseph. “But there is no point saying any of these things now. My son is dead. It’s like I dropped him at death’s door.”

frahman@thenational.ae

- Additional reporting by Preeti Kannan