x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dubai teenager's driving lapse which cost two lives

A tragic accident leading to the death of two pedestrians taught Amro Al Sabi a valuable life lesson.

Amro Al Sabi ran away with his mother’s car when he was 17 and accidentally killed two pedestrians.
Amro Al Sabi ran away with his mother’s car when he was 17 and accidentally killed two pedestrians.

DUBAI // When Amro Al Sabi was a teenager, he learnt a harrowing lesson about road safety that will remain with him for life.

Every Eid, Mr Al Sabi's family gather at his uncle's house for lunch. When he was 17 and with no driving licence, he decided to sneak the car keys out of his mother's handbag and take the vehicle for a ride.

But what he was hoping would be a fun trip to celebrate the occasion ended in tragedy.

On the way back from Al Garhoud, going through the narrow tunnel that leads to Deira City Centre, a moment of distraction led to him running over three pedestrians, killing two of them.

"As I was reaching for my pack of cigarettes, which was on the dashboard, it fell on the floor," he says. "When I reached below to get them, that's when it all happened."

Within a moment, Mr Al Sabi found himself against the kerb.

"All it took was two seconds," he says. "I didn't even realise I had hit anyone. I went out of the car and saw three bodies on the ground, with blood seeping out of one of their mouths. It was like a terrible scene from a movie."

As crowds approached the scene, Mr Al Sabi stood motionless, in shock. Within moments, the police arrived.

"The police were really good with me. They tried to calm me down and understand what happened," he says.

The police took Mr Al Sabi, in handcuffs, to hospital. "My nose was bleeding and I had minor injuries, but if you ask me how I felt at that moment, I honestly can't remember," he says. "I was shocked more than anything. It all happened in the blink of an eye."

From the hospital, he was taken to the old Muraqqabat police station, where he was met by his family.

"My mum was in tears; she was completely shattered," he says.

Mr Al Sabi was in custody for three days before he was sent to the Al Rafa police station in Bur Dubai, where he was put in a prison for juveniles. There, he his survival instincts kicked in.

"You had to form your own allies in order to make it," he says. "People there were thieves, rapists, drug addicts. To them it was just another day with no remorse for what they've done. I felt so out of place."

Thirty-six days, two hearings and a court case later, Mr Al Sabi was freed. "There were social workers on the jury who saw that I had no previous record, and that this was a result of being young and irresponsible," he says. "I felt I was given a second chance."

On the day of his release, Mr Al Sabi was welcomed by a group of nearly 50 people at his home.

"It was all the love and support from my family and friends, every small gesture, that kept me going," he says.

He paid Dh400,000 to the families of the victims and Dh15,000 for destroying public property.

Eight years later, Mr Al Sabi, a Jordanian who lives in Sharjah, says the incident marked a new start for him.

"I truly believe everything happens for a reason," he says. "Who knows, I've probably affected all my friends and everyone around me. They've also learnt from my experience.

"Before this incident, I was reckless and never took my family's advice seriously. Now, I'm more responsible when making decisions. I realise that all it takes is a moment, one error in judgement, to change your life."