x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Safety concerns after second man falls from a climbing wall

Two falls causing serious injuries in less than 48 hours at Dubai climbing walls are prompting investigations.

Mohamed Alavian, 24, an aviation student from Iran, suffered a fractured skull and arm in a 12-metre fall at the Dorell Sports climbing wall at the World Trade Centre on Thursday evening.
Mohamed Alavian, 24, an aviation student from Iran, suffered a fractured skull and arm in a 12-metre fall at the Dorell Sports climbing wall at the World Trade Centre on Thursday evening.

DUBAI // Safety concerns over recreational climbing walls were raised yesterday after a second climber suffered serious injuries in a fall.

Ahmad Daood, 29, a Jordanian, broke both legs and an arm after falling eight metres at the Adventure HQ climbing wall at Times Square Mall on Saturday.

The accident came less than 48 hours after Mohamed Alavian, 24, an aviation student from Iran, suffered a fractured skull and arm in a 12-metre fall at the Dorell Sports climbing wall at the World Trade Centre on Thursday evening.

Both men are recovering in hospital and are expected to undergo extensive surgery.

Ladan Alavian, Mohamed's mother, received a call from her son's mobile on Thursday night. But instead of her son's voice, she heard that of a stranger.

"When I heard a strange voice calling on my son's phone telling me that my son had fallen off a wall, I panicked," she said. "I rushed to Rashid Hospital, not knowing how badly he was injured or even if he was going to live.

"My son's skull was fractured and so was his arm, in five places. He had surgery to screw all the broken bones together and will need more surgery. Parents should know not to allow their loved ones to go to these places."

At Adventure HQ, Ahmad Daoud had arrived at the rock climbing wall at 8.30pm on Saturday. Mohammed Ali, a Jordanian friend, said his safety rigging was prepared by an instructor.

"When Ahmad reached a height of eight metres, he slipped and fell," Mr Ali said. "When he hit the floor, he was screaming in pain. He had broken both his legs and his arm."

Most indoor rock climbing gyms require belayers - the person anchoring the climber's rope - to have certification or other proof that they have the required knowledge.

"All the gear is designed to protect you far beyond any force you'll ever put on it," said Matt Yosca, a rock climbing instructor at MetroRock Boston in the United States.

Ropes must be designed for climbing and are required to absorb the weight of a falling climber repeated times. The carabiner, or hook that connects a belayer or climber to the rope, must be strong enough to withstand a fall.

But the most important safety feature at any indoor climbing gym, Mr Yosca said, was training. “If the staff isn’t trained properly, all the right equipment doesn’t matter,” he said.

Sultan Essa Al Suwaidi, head of the safety section at Dubai Municipality’s Public Health And Safety Department, said indoor rock-climbing facilities were inspected regularly.

“As with every establishment such as health clinics, gyms and event organisers, such places [and people] must obtain a licence from Dubai Municipality in order to operate,” he said. “Our inspectors conduct regular visits depending on risk analysis – this could mean once a month or every two months, for example. In places such as indoor rock climbing, our inspectors check everything from equipment, ropes, locks, how much load the ropes can take and so forth.”

Lamia Dalle, 24, a banking relationship manager and a friend of Mr Alavian, said she saw him fall the height of a three-storey building. “We had booked a beginner’s climbing session for 7pm,” she said.

“There were three instructors there, and it was a young one, maybe 21 years old, that tied Mohamed’s knots. Mohamed went up the wall, then got tired and said he that he wanted to come back down.

“The instructor told him to let go of the wall so that he could be lowered down.

“When he let go, he fell as if he was falling from a building, nothing was slowing his descent.

“When he hit the ground, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he was bleeding from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth. I thought he was going to die and started screaming.”

Maurice Dorell, owner of Dorell Sports, said on Saturday he could not comment as the incident was under investigation. His mobile phone was switched off yesterday. A World Trade Centre employee said all climbing had been suspended until further notice.

Management at Adventure HQ declined to comment on the incident because it was under investigation.

They said police had not ordered their climbing wall to be shut down, and it was in use.

Dubai Police are investigating both incidents.

ealghalib@thenational.ae

* With reporting from Maey El Shoush, Jen Thomas and Wafa Issa