x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai climbing wall fall was 'no one's fault', says manager

Manager of an indoor rock climbing wall and his employee are charged in court over a climber's 12-metre fall that left him with permanent injuries.

DUBAI // The manager of an indoor climbing wall told a court that nobody was to blame for an accident in which a first-timer fell 12 metres and sustained multiple fractures.

Mohamed Alavian, a 25-year-old from Iran, fractured his arm, skull and nose when he fell from Dorell Sports 18-metre climbing wall at the World Trade Centre on September 6 last year.

Prosecutors told the Misdemeanours Court that he arrived at the Dorell Sports gym with five friends and said he would like to be the first in his group to climb.

SR, a 19-year-old Indian who was not employed by the gym, but was described as an experienced climber, then guided him through how to climb and tied him into his harness and attached him to a safety rope before belaying him.

"I told him I was a first timer so he tied the rope and told me the next time I could do it myself," said Mr Alavian. "Then he explained to me how I should climb and which rocks to grab by the hand and which to put my feet on."

He said that he climbed 12 metres of the wall in about two minutes, while the teenager held his safety rope. He then began to feel tired and his grip loosened.

"I suddenly fell and woke up to find myself in the hospital."

He suffered a fractured skull and nose, five fractures to his arm and was bruised all over his body. A medical report described his injuries as constituting a permanent 20 per cent disability.

"I blame the manager of the place who should only hire qualified employees because people's lives are at stake here," said Mr Alavian, who was only then informed that the teenager who helped him was not an employee but a fellow customer.

The teenager told prosecutors that while not employed at the gym he would go there at least three times a week. He said it was standard procedure at the gym that those with climbing experience would help newcomers.

"I saw a group of young people wanting to climb and one of them came to me and asked me to help him get started," said the teenager. "I don't know why the rope became untied - I made sure it was tied firmly."

Both the teenager and the manager of Dorell Sports, the 37-year-old Dutchman MD, were charged with unintentionally causing harm to Mr Alavian.

The teenager did not turn up to the court hearing, but the manager, who was present, denied the charge.

"Nobody [should] take the blame for what happened," said the manager, who added that he felt sorry for the injured climber and that he wouldn't have wished for any customer to get hurt at his gym.

He said that newcomers to the gym were registered then given detailed information on the sport before being assigned to either a trainer employed by the gym or an experienced registered climber.

He told prosecutors that he had been living in the UAE for 15 years and been managing the gym for six years. "I received a call about the fall while I was in a taxi heading to the gym," he said.

The next hearing was scheduled for November 6.

Climbing at the wall was temporarily suspended following Mr Alavian's fall, but has since resumed. Less than 48 hours after Mr Alavian's fall, Ahmad Daood, a 29-year-old Jordanian, broke both legs and an arm after falling eight metres at a different climbing wall, at Adventure HQ in Times Square Mall.

salamir@thenational.ae