Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Tributes paid to Emirati athlete as investigation begins

Police to examine whether cage that collapsed on discus thrower was properly set up

Abdullah Hayayei leaves behind five children and a wife. Courtesy of paralympic.org
Abdullah Hayayei leaves behind five children and a wife. Courtesy of paralympic.org

A special tribute will be paid to Abdullah Hayayei at the opening of World Para Athletics Championships on Friday after his teammates said they wanted the games to continue despite his death.

Officials went to the UAE team’s hotel on Tuesday night to express their condolences to the 16 athletes and 18 officials here in London, but the team said that they wanted to compete in his honour.

A moment of silence will be observed at the opening ceremony in the stadium where Hayayei was due to take part in the shot put this weekend, the first of three events in which he was competing, said officials.

The throwing cage collapsed on Hayayei’s head while he was preparing on Tuesday afternoon watched over by two coaches, Asian Paralympic Committee president Majid Rashed told reporters. The accident was witnessed by other teammates and officials who were said to be in a state of shock.

Officials said an ambulance first arrived within three minutes of accident. Footage of the aftermath showed about 20 people trying to lift the discus cage to allow paramedics to get to the stricken athlete.

“These people, I would describe them as superhuman heroes, were lifting the structure above him so that paramedics could treat him,” witness Rumbi Sambana told London’s Evening Standard. “How they all lifted the cage I don’t know, it was a superhuman effort.”

Despite their efforts, the athlete was pronounced dead at the scene 20 minutes after the accident, said organisers.

“He was ambitious, he dreamed of raising his country’s flag and achieving medals for his country and for his family,” said Majid Rashed.

The council-run athletics facility was only handed over to the championship organisers on Saturday to turn it into a training facility. All the equipment was brought in by the games organisers.

The investigation will focus on the cage and whether it was put up properly over the weekend. Wheelchair athletes with coordination problems are normally secured to the circle within the cage to allow them to throw safely. Officials declined to say what Hayayei was doing at the time of the accident, citing the ongoing police investigation.

London’s main police force is currently investigating the death to ascertain whether anyone was at fault for potential gross negligence manslaughter, according to sources close to the inquiry. If they find that it was an accident, they are likely to pass over the case to the local council that runs the facility for investigation and potential prosecution under health and safety legislation.

That inquiry would likely focus on the practices of the games organisers, who said yesterday that it was confident that it had carried out all safety procedures. The facility remains closed pending the outcome of the investigation.

Updated: July 12, 2017 08:47 PM