The news of the drowning of three members of a British-Nigerian family holidaying in southern Spain on Christmas eve hit the British press during the festive period. What was initially thought to be an unfortunate accident could also be a case of criminal negligence on the part of the hotel management, according to new reports on the tragic incident.
Gabriel Diya, his wife and three children wanted to take some few days off to relax after a hectic year. And the UK-based family chose the Costa del Sol, Malaga, in southern Spain, famed for its mild weather when northern Europe becomes unbearably cold at this time of the year for its getaway.
What should be a week vacation for a family to rest and recharge for the coming year quickly turned to a tragedy when Gabriel Diya, daughter Comfort Diya and son Praise-Emmanuel Diya died on Christmas Eve at the Club La Costa World holiday resort in Fuengirola.
The 52-year-old Diya, who headed a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in the UK, had reportedly jumped into the pool when he observed that his 16-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter had problems floating. An autopsy of the bodies found they all died by drowning.
Controversies over swimming pool
The resort’s management, CLC World Resorts and Hotels, said nothing was wrong with the pool at the time of the tragedy.
In a statement released on 25 December, one day after the incident took place, the management said the Spanish police had carried out “a full investigation” and “found no concerns relating to the pool or procedures in place.”
The resort management concluded that the incident was a “tragic accident.”
A statement from the Spanish police also said initial evidence found the incident was a “tragic accident” caused by the victim’s “lack of expertise” in swimming.
Earlier, Spanish media reported Mrs Diya’s surviving daughter had told police that the three deceased could not swim.
But, in a statement released to the media, Mrs Diya said, “We never informed the police or anyone that the family members could not swim.”
In the statement issued on Friday, she suggested there was more than met the eye on the incident.
“I believe something was wrong with the pool that must have made swimming difficult for them at that point in time,” she said.
“The whole family, all five of us went to the pool together and were all present when the incident occurred.”
“The children were not left unattended. We followed the instructions displayed by the poolside at all times.
“The children went into the pool using the steps but found themselves dragged into the middle, which was deeper and called for help when they could not get out.
“My daughter did not fall into the water. My husband went in via the steps trying to help the two struggling while I ran to the nearby apartments shouting for help to assist my husband.
“By the time assistance came, the three of them were under the water.”
A report by Euro Weekly News, a Spanish-based English-language newspaper, says that chlorine pumps could have been the killer of the 3 British-Nigerian family members. The publication, quoting an unnamed staff of the hotel, said on its website that the tragic accident took place when chlorine was being heavily pumped into the pool causing breathing issues for the deceased.
In another report on the incident, the German SPIEGEL Online reported that the Spanish authorities suspect the pool must have had a problem as one of the hotel staff who attempted to save the deceased had problems coming out of the water, which indicated a possible problem with the pool’s pumping system.
These reports back up the claim of Mrs Diya that the family could swim well despite earlier claims they couldn’t.
Strong indication has emerged that Mrs Diya may sue the company.
A Fuengirola-based lawyer called Javier Tor has confirmed he was now working for Mrs Diya, a British media outlet metro.co.uk reported on Saturday.
On why there was no lifeguard on duty at the time of the accident, the hotel said it’s a small pool which made it unnecessary. However, the management hasn’t been able to explain why it took so long for help to arrive that three persons could have died before they could be rescued.
“Humble, friendly and committed pastor”
Mr Diya was a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God in south-east London.
His fellow pastor, Agu Irukwu, described him as a “humble, friendly and a committed pastor and Christian leader”.
Mrs Olubunmi said: “Our family are utterly heartbroken by the events last Tuesday, but we are comforted and strengthened by our strong faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
“We are deeply shocked, saddened and struggling to come to terms with their passing.
“They all brought a joy and love to the world and to everyone that crossed their path. We love them all dearly, will always remember them in our hearts and miss them greatly.”
RCCG has released a statement describing the late Mr Diya as “a humble, friendly and committed pastor and Christian leader.”