x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Operator warned before Global Village Ferris wheel death, says family

The operator of the Ferris wheel at Global Village in Dubai was warned there might be a problem before the accident took place, according to the cousin of the Emirati victim.

People walk near the Ferris wheel at Dubai’s Global Village where an Emirati man died last month. Jaime Puebla / The National
People walk near the Ferris wheel at Dubai’s Global Village where an Emirati man died last month. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // Two Asian men warned the operator of a Ferris wheel that a piece of machinery had come loose before it fell on and killed an Emirati man, the victim's cousin claimed last night.

Faleh Hasan Al Habsi, 30, was walking with his 37-year-old cousin, Abdullah Mohammed Al Habsi, near the attraction when the accident occurred. "We heard someone yelling but it was really noisy and we had no idea what was happening," Mr Al Habsi said.

An instant later, his cousin pushed him out of the way of a falling lighting panel, which struck Abdullah's head.

"I can't describe the scene to you, it was horrible to see my cousin in that condition," Mr Al Habsi said.

Abdullah, who was a member of the UAE armed forces, and his cousin had been walking a few steps in front of their friends, Salim Obaid Al Naqbi, 36, and Mohammed Khalifa.

"The whole thing happened so fast," Mr Al Naqbi said.

"Faleh was standing centimetres away from Abdullah when the metal piece came down on him. It was a miracle it did not kill them both."

Mr Al Naqbi said he was in shock not only at the incident, but that the ride continued to operate after the accident. "The wheel kept on turning at least 30 minutes after it killed Abdullah. The accident happened at 10.45pm on Thursday and it was about midnight by the time they got everyone off the wheel."

He remained at the scene and said he heard two men tell police that there was something wrong with the machinery hours before the accident.

"Two Asian men returned to the village just to inform the officers that they had told the wheel operator of a problem with the machine who did nothing about it."

He said the men told police they were willing to testify.

Abdullah leaves seven children - three sons and four daughters - as well as a pregnant wife.

"When his four-year-old son asks me, 'when is my father returning?', what am I supposed to tell him? It's hard to look at him. It breaks my heart," said Mr Al Habsi.

Mr Al Naqbi blames the company. "There was no one monitoring the wheel, no one to step back and say there is something wrong. This wheel operates four or five months out of the year and isn't covered for the rest. Of course it will rust."

Abdullah and his family had just moved to a new home five months ago and he was preparing to travel to Kuwait for military training, according to an FNC member, Faisal Al Tunaiji. He visited Abdullah's family in the Seih Al Uraibi district of Ras Al Khaimah yesterday to express his condolences.

"What he did was a brave thing, he was a hero who sacrificed himself to save lives," he said.

Col Ali Ghanem, the director of Bur Dubai Police station, said that three people were arrested on the day of the accident. "That includes the owner, operator and engineer responsible for the ride," he said, adding that the case had been passed to the Public Prosecution.

All rides remain closed at Global Village pending the outcome of the investigation.

"We have ... decided to suspend all funfair rides owned and operated by Freij Entertainment," said the Global Village chief executive, Saeed Ali bin Redha, yesterday.

Redha Salman, director of the public health and safety department at Dubai Municipality, said that a report would be handed to the Public Prosecution but refused to say if the municipality planned to conduct any inspections at other locations.

Mr Al Tunaiji said that although legislation was in place to prevent such incidents, more enforcement of the regulations was needed.

talsubaihi@thenational.ae

aahmed@thenational.ae