x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sharjah girl, 2, plunges 14 floors to death

Police blamed neglect by parents for the tragedy. "Some parents unfortunately fail to pay heed to the continuous warnings and awareness campaigns," they said.

Dr Taisser Atrak, a pediatrician who won an Abu Dhabi Award for his campaigning work on child safety, says the fault for children falling to their deaths from highrises lies ultimately with parents. Pawan Singh / The National
Dr Taisser Atrak, a pediatrician who won an Abu Dhabi Award for his campaigning work on child safety, says the fault for children falling to their deaths from highrises lies ultimately with parents. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // A two-year-old girl plunged to her death yesterday from the balcony of her family's 14th-floor apartment in Sharjah.

The little girl was standing on an item of furniture close to the window, playing and looking out the window, when she suddenly lost her balance and fell.

Police blamed neglect by parents for the tragedy. "Some parents unfortunately fail to pay heed to the continuous warnings and awareness campaigns," they said.

"Sharjah police urge parents to closely watch their kids, making sure all windows are closed, install iron bars for windows and keep all pieces of furniture away from windows."

The tragedy happened at Al Mamzar Lake building. Police were called at 1.47pm but rescue teams found the child had died immediately from the impact of the fall.

There are dozens of cases every year of children falling from balcony and high-rise windows.

In January, a 16-month-old Indian child died after falling from an open window after being left unattended in a family flat in Sharjah.

In March, a teenager fell from a 12th floor window in Ras Al Khaimah. In November last year, a five-year-old boy fell from a balcony in Abu Dhabi.

In April last year the mother of a five-month-old Egyptian girl who fell from a fifth-floor balcony in Abu Dhabi was convicted of negligence and given a one month suspended jail sentence.

Wadeema's Law, legislation on children's rights now being considered by the Federal National Council, may include clauses related to the prevention of children from falling from balconies.

Dr Taisser Atrak, a pediatrician who won an Abu Dhabi Award for his campaigning work on child safety, said the fault lay ultimately with parents.

"The cause of all of these deaths is a lack of parents' awareness," he said. "They just don't think that balconies, or windows, can cause deaths."

He said there was a disproportionately high number of deaths from children falling from balconies in the UAE.

He compared the situation with that in New York, before the government launched a Kids Can't Fly campaign that increased parents knowledge about the potential dangers. He said something similar was needed in the UAE.

"In the first two years, they dropped the rate by 50 per cent and today it's almost non-existent. It was due to extensive awareness, very strict building codes, and also parents have to be accountable.

"Parents can't leave kids alone out of their sight, they just can't. Kids can't be left on the balcony, or by the window all on their own.

"Parents should be responsible, they have to watch them all the time, anywhere."

It is not known whether the parents of the Iranian girl who fell to her death yesterday would face legal action.

Dr Atrak said in general authorities should hold parents to account for failing in their duty of care.

"Although this is a tragedy, and no one intended it to happen, there should be some accountability," he said. "A child is something so precious, and it was lost by simple lack of awareness."

mcroucher@thenational.ae