Investigation continues into tragic drowning of British tourists in Mijas pool

The accounts of the Diya family and the Civil Guard as to how the father and two children could have died last week after getting into trouble in the water continue to differ

The pool where the accident happened.
The pool where the accident happened.GARCÍA-SANTOS

Nearly a week after three British citizens drowned in a swimming pool in the southern Spanish municipality of Mijas, Málaga, the questions about what caused the tragic accident have only grown. The police version of events and that of the two women who survived the incident, the only witnesses, are contradictory. Firstly, there are disagreements about whether or not the victims – a man and two of his children – knew how to swim. Secondly, whether the pool’s filter system could have created a current that dragged the bathers into the deep end. What could have happened? “The investigation is not yet over,” the Civil Guard explained.

Last Tuesday at around 1.30pm, the 112 emergency service line got a call about three people who had drowned in the pool, which is part of a vacation resort. By the time an ambulance crew arrived on the scene the victims were already dead, but the incident was not made public until five hours later. “The circumstances are so strange that we waited until the situation was clarified,” the 112 emergency services said at the time.

The small size of the swimming pool and the fact that three people died at the same time raised a lot of questions

The small size of the swimming pool and the fact that three people died at the same time raised a lot of questions. The Civil Guard began to answer these questions slowly but surely, but five days later and doubts remained.

The accident happened at Club La Costa World, a vacation complex that is divided into eight different resorts. Given the warm weather this winter, many tourists – the majority of whom are British – have been enjoying a dip in the sea or the resort’s pools.

The family involved in last week’s accident are also British: Gabriel and Olubunmi Diya and their three children: Praise Emmanuel, 16; Favour, 14; and Comfort, nine. They arrived in Mijas on December 22 with the intention of staying for a week. On December 24, while they were sunbathing on the loungers by the pool, the children decided to enter the pool.

With heavy hearts, we extend our condolences to the family, parish, friends and associates of Area Pastor Gabriel Diya...

Posted by Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Central Office, UK on Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Facebook message from the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in London where victim Gabriel Diya worked as a pastor.

Measuring 15 meters by 10 meters, and with capacity for 89 people, the pool is concave, with steps on both sides. The deepest part, which goes down two meters, is in the middle.

The family had the pool all to themselves, and there was no lifeguard on duty at the time of the accident. The incident began when the youngest of the children slipped in the deepest part of the pool. She couldn’t get out. Nor could her older brother, Praise Emmanuel, or her father, Gabriel, who both tried to rescue her. From the edge of the pool, their mother and sister could only shout with concern, without being able to help. Nor could the resort employees do anything but unsuccessfully try to revive the three, as the mother prayed.

Initial reports pointed to a problem with the filter system, which could have been sucking in water and creating a current. One of the employees who removed the bodies from the water also told investigators, according to news agency EFE, that they had problems getting out of the water. But aquatic specialists from the Civil Guard checked the motors and valves of the pool system and did not find any irregularities. The autopsies concluded that all three of the family members died by drowning.

The family had the pool all to themselves, and there was no lifeguard on duty at the time of the accident

A number of theories emerged. “We had to put a stop to them,” they explained from the Civil Guard, which on Friday released a reconstruction of the events to that end. They pointed to a “tragic accident” given the victims’ inability to swim.

The explanation made sense and should have resolved the numerous doubts. But hours later, the family released a statement via a local lawyer, Javier Toro. Signed by the widow, Olubunmi Diya, the text made clear that she had never said that her relatives did not know how to swim. Her husband had swum when he was younger and her youngest daughter had taken swimming lessons days before their trip. The attorney pointed to a possible translation error of the statement that Olubunmi made to the Civil Guard. “Something extraordinary must have happened,” Toro insisted on Saturday. “Not just an accident.”

The spokesperson for the Diya family raised the question this weekend as to why there wasn’t a lifeguard on duty in the area where the accident happened. There are, however, life preservers by the water and signs in English and Spanish with the rules of the pool. Regulations in the Andalusia region state that pools that are greater than 200 square meters in surface area must have at least one lifeguard. The resort has not made public the exact dimensions but it has stated that it is no greater than that limit. The pool’s filter has been off since Friday, when a sign was put up from Club La Costa World stating: “The pool will be closed until further notice.”

The regional health department has confirmed that the site meets all of the necessary regulations. But Civil Guard sources said that they are still awaiting a report from the Andalusian administration confirming this. On Friday, a specialist arrived on site to draw up this report. “The investigation is not yet over,” the same sources explained. There are mysteries still to be resolved in this exceptional case.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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