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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

'You brought back my family': Friends hailed for saving mother and daughters swept out to sea

Emirati family pulled to safety from waters by group on day out at beach

Saddam Al Azzam, Dr Ibraheem Elbashayreh and Hisham Mustarihy (from left to right) raced to the rescue of a family at risk of drowning at sea. Leslie Pableo for The National
Saddam Al Azzam, Dr Ibraheem Elbashayreh and Hisham Mustarihy (from left to right) raced to the rescue of a family at risk of drowning at sea. Leslie Pableo for The National

Three friends who raced to rescue an Emirati mother and her three daughters who were swept out to sea were thanked for “bringing the family back from the brink of death”.

Hisham Mustarihy, 45, and Saddam Al Azzam, 31, who is a paramedic, were at a beach in Al Rahba, Abu Dhabi, with Dr Ibraheem Elbashayreh, 48, to celebrate his recent move to the UAE when they heard screams.

The three Jordanians, who were praying at the time, saw the family of four battling for their lives in the water after being caught in a strong tide.

The medical expertise of Dr Elbashayreh and Mr Al ­Azzam was vital, but it was the ­swimming skills of Mr Mustarihy that proved a life saver.

The friends feel it was fate that they were at the beach that day because they were initially in two minds about making the trip.

The incident took place about 4.30pm on Saturday, ­September 22.

“The youngest had been swept away then her two ­other sisters went to save her but were drowning as well,” said Dr Elbashayreh, who has a

PhD in nursing and works at Fatima College of Health Sciences in Al Ain.

The group called police while Mr Mustarihy, being the only one of the three who can swim, rushed into the water to help.

“I pulled the youngest one out of the water then returned for the second then for the third and brought them to safety, where my friends treated them,” Mr Mustarihy said.

Rescuing the mother was a challenge for Mr Mustarihy, who was growing weary having not swum for the best part of 10 years.

“I was out of power but I just could not stop. I am not young and have not swum in the sea for nearly a decade,” he said.

“But leaving the mother for dead was not an option.” He said he nearly drowned twice before finally bringing the woman to safety.

“The daughters recovered in no time, but their mother’s condition was critical, she had swallowed a lot of water and was unconscious, she had no pulse,” Dr Elbashayreh said.

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He said the rescue mission took more than 30 minutes, by which time emergency services had arrived to offer assistance.

But with every minute crucial, Dr Elbashayreh and Mr Al Azzam were happy to demonstrate that a medical worker is never off duty.

“Saddam and I performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation several times before she regained consciousness,” Dr Elbashayreh said.

Mr Al Azzam, who works as a paramedic with Abu Dhabi Police, had no hesitation in answering the distress call.

He said a paramedic is never off the clock when it comes to saving lives.

“Who would be reluctant to save a life, especially when you see that the lives of a mother and her children need saving.”

The rescued mother, Umm Abdullah, is in Al Rahba Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

She said that her daughters, aged 8, 14 and 19, are fine after their ordeal.

When the group of friends called to check on the woman, they said she told them, “thank you, you don’t know what you have done, you have brought my family back”.

Police in the UAE regularly warn the public about the dangers of swimming in rough seas after a series of tragic incidents in UAE waters.