Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Sharjah family devastated after boy drowns during first swimming lesson

Parents say they were given conflicting reports about his death

A man walks outside Tiger building where the accident happened. Reem Mohammed / The National
A man walks outside Tiger building where the accident happened. Reem Mohammed / The National

The Sharjah family of a boy who died during his first swimming lesson have called on authorities to enforce stronger safety measures at swimming pools.

The boy, 11, is at least the fifth child to die in a pool in the past year in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates.

He was being taught at Tiger Fitness Club at the Tiger Building Al Qadesia in Al Nahda on Sunday.

The family said they were given conflicting reports about his death.

“The police report says there was water in his lungs and he drowned,” his father said. “We don’t know what happened.”

Management from Tiger Group, which owns the building and fitness club, did not respond to requests for comment.

There must be lifeguards, there must be a camera, these things are compulsory

Victim's brother

“We went to the management to get answers,” said the boy’s older brother, who flew in from India.

“We spoke to three different people and got three different stories. One said he was swimming and came out of the pool. One lady said he wasn’t in the pool.”

The boy’s mother wanted to attend classes but was turned away. Gym staff said male and female parents are only allowed to attend with children on alternating classes. It was men’s day.

“There should be a mandatory permit for swimming classes,” his father said. “There should be some norms. There must be lifeguards, there must be a camera, these things are compulsory.

"If they have a problem with this, they should allow parents to join their children. We don’t know what happened to our child.”

The fitness club remains open.

Staff said cameras would not be installed at the indoor pool because it would violate the privacy of female swimmers.

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 31 JULY 2019. A girl plays inside Tiger building reception in Al Nahda neighborhood in Sharjah. (Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National) Reporter: Section:
Children play inside Tiger building reception. Reem Mohammed / The National

They said there were four swimming pupils, an instructor and male parents.

Gym staff claimed the boy died of cardiac arrest and then fell backwards into the pool.

“The family don’t know what happened, they weren’t there,” said a staff member when asked why parents were given different versions of events. “It was a heart attack.”

Building staff were told of a problem about 7.50pm and carried the boy in the lift as an ambulance arrived.

Sharjah Police said they would not comment out of respect for the family.

The incident is the latest in a series of drownings. It follows the death of twin Emirati boys, aged two and a half, who drowned in a neighbour’s home in Ras Al Khaimah in June.

In December, an Arab boy, 3, drowned at a hotel villa pool in Ras Al Khaimah. A few weeks earlier an Emirati boy, 4, drowned at his school pool in Sharjah.

The father of the latest victim was told of the death as he was driving home from work in Jebel Ali.

He moved to the UAE 15 years ago. The boy had lived in the country since he was two months old.

The family lived next door at Sahara Plaza, where dozens of children gather in the early evening to play in the lobby.

The boy was a pupil at Sharjah Indian School and was well known to the children in his building for joining in games of tag and cycling. He also played football.

He is remembered by other children as a kind and active child.

“The whole building knew him,” his father said. “I was known as his father. He was the one people knew.”

He held a photo of his son strumming the ukulele on his birthday in May.

“He was amazing. He was full of life.”

Updated: August 2, 2019 02:50 AM

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