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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

‘No one to blame for girls’ tragedy’

Uncle of two sisters who suffocated in car in the heat says the parents were not to blame, as he tells of family’s heartbreak

AJMAN // The uncle of two young sisters who suffocated in their father’s car in mid-­afternoon heat said the parents were not to blame for the tragedy.

Abdullah Al Balooshi also spoke about the heartbreak of losing two “friendly, funny and lovely” little girls.

Moza, 4, and Hafsa Al Balooshi, 2, were playing in the garden at their home in Al Jurf, Ajman, and entered the car. The auto lock trapped them in, ­police said.

Their father had gone to perform noon prayers at a mosque at the time and the girls were later found by their older sister.

Police said it was two hours ­after they had locked themselves in, but Mr Al Balooshi said it was one hour.

“I do not blame the parents but the fault might be that they did not keep the car windows open just a tiny bit and lock the doors,” Mr Al Balooshi said.

“Most of us lock cars to avoid theft, but not when they are parked in a villa yard. We do not lock them because they are parked in a safe place.

“But anyone who sees a sorry incident about kids will blame the parents,” he said.

“I do not blame people for their negative comments on social media because I know the father went to the mosque to pray and read the Quran, as he is an orator in Friday prayers.”

Mr Al Balooshi, 39, said that the girls were loved by their family, including their eight siblings, and were very sociable, active and always having fun ­together.

“The mother and all her children were at home. All doors of the villa were closed, but a rear one in the kitchen was open and the girls went out to the yard to play,” he said.

“After about an hour the family started looking everywhere for the kids until their sister found them in the car. The car was unlocked and no one in the family had used it for a week.

“How it locked on them I do not know, but police said it most probably locked by itself. And they might have slept or passed out while sitting inside.”

Mr Al Balooshi said the parents were heartbroken but they believed it was God’s will. He said that parents could not put all of their children in one room, lock the door and stop them going out to play.

“This incident will be awareness for us and others to be more cautious,” he said. “And it is not neglect from the parents, but they should make their children aware of the danger of sitting alone inside a car.

“The main advice I say to parents is to lock a car’s doors and open car windows just a little bit, especially during hot weather in case a child sits inside.”

In many such cases authorities have not brought charges against parents, with one source saying “no parent intentionally forgets a child in a car”.

A Dubai prosecutor said he had never seen a parent being charged in cases such as this one, and that Muslims would consider such a tragedy to be God’s will.

The case is still under investigation, and one legal expert said that the parents could face ­neglect charges.

“No one blames themselves for their mistakes,” said lawyer Yousef Al Bahar.

“However, the police investigation will determine whether the parents will be accused of child neglect.”

Last year the UAE’s child protection law came into force. It lays out the legal rights of ­minors and establishes punishments for those who breach those rights.

It also allows childcare specialists to remove children from their homes against parents’ wishes and without judicial permission in cases of imminent danger.

The law also makes clear that those who put children in danger or abandon them, neglect them, or leave them without supervision or fail to enrol them in school or register them at birth will be subject to a prison sentence or a fine

The law applies to all children up to the age of 18.

roueiti@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Salam Al Amir and Nawal Al Rahami