Days before Qatar’s largest water park is expected to reopen for the summer season, a Doha criminal court has heard new details about the case of a Palestinian boy who drowned there in 2012.
Three individuals and two companies have been charged with involuntary manslaughter following the child’s death, and are accused of recklessly failing to properly perform their duties at the Aqua Park, which is located some 40km from Doha.
The defendants include an administrative supervisor and two contractors – a lifeguard and a Doha Clinic paramedic.
The facility’s owner, Hala Co. for Projects Aqua Park, is also named as a defendant, as is Kuwait-based Al Jazeera Co. for Commercial Projects, which is contracted to manage the property.
All the defendants have pled not guilty. The first hearing took place last November and was followed by several sessions before this week’s hearing, during which the court heard new details about the boy’s death.
The park reopens for the 2015 summer season on Thursday, March 26. It first launched in 2010, and raised safety concerns that same year, when an 11-year-old boy reportedly broke a rib and injured a kidney after falling off one of the park’s attractions.
However, there have been no reports of serious injuries to visitors since the 2012 drowning incident.
During Sunday’s session, which the paramedic and representatives for the two companies failed to attend, witnesses and one of the defendants testified that several things went wrong the day the boy died on May 4, 2012.
The court heard that there was a shortage of lifeguards monitoring the pool, and questions were raised about the adequacy of Aqua Park’s first aid equipment and the training of its medical contractors.
However, the lifeguard defendant also said that it appeared that the young boy was playing near a pool intended for adults without parental supervision or wearing a required personal floatation device.
Responding to questions from a judge hearing the case, the lifeguard said four or five individuals usually keep an eye on the pool where the boy drowned.
But that day, which was a Friday, only two lifeguards were on duty, according to the defendant, who said he reported this information to his supervisor.
Aqua Park officials dispute this allegation, saying in 2012 in response to a lawsuit from the mother of the child that six lifeguards were on duty.
The lifeguards are not directly employed by Aqua Park, but rather work for a company named The Ninth Group that subcontracts its staff to the facility’s managers.
The lifeguard told the court that he saw the boy – who another witness estimated was between six and eight years old – earlier in the day sitting on the edge of the pool, playing with a ball with two young male adults.
A young woman who the lifeguard said appeared to be with the group was sitting at a snack bar.
Later in his shift, the lifeguard was walking around the pool when he spotted the boy underwater. He said he realized something was wrong when the boy didn’t flinch after being bumped by another swimmer.
The lifeguard said he jumped into the pool, pulled the boy out and rushed him to Aqua Park’s medical clinic. The boy began vomiting on his shirt as he was being carried, the lifeguard said.
The defendant added that he did not know what treatment the victim received from medical staff. He explained he immediately returned to his post at the short-staffed pool after handing the boy to a paramedic, who is also currently on trial.
During the rescue effort, an off-duty pediatrician from Hamad Medical Corp. who was visiting the Aqua Park with her family heard the commotion and rushed to the room where the boy was receiving treatment.
The doctor, who was called as a witness during this week’s hearing, said medical staff were incorrectly performing CPR on the boy, whose face and body had started to turn blue.
In her testimony, she did not identify who was providing the medical treatment or say what they were specifically doing wrong.
The doctor took over care and requested a piece of medical equipment to pump water out of the boy’s body. She said she was inexplicably brought an air pump used to inflate a tire or floating pool toy.
“Why would a place that caters to young children and pools not have equipment to deal with drowning?” she asked in court. “I was unpleasantly surprised to see that the place was not equipped to handle accidents like this,” she added.
The doctor said she spent 22 minutes massaging the boy’s heart while pressing down on his lungs to expel water from his body before an ambulance arrived.
She said that the boy showed no vital signs, but that it is standard practice to perform treatment for 35 straight minutes in such cases before concluding that a drowning victim has died.
Under questioning from the defense lawyer representing the paramedic who was working at Aqua Park, the doctor said the boy’s chances of survival largely depended on how long he spent underwater.
She also said the boy was only wearing a swimsuit in response to additional questions from the lawyer.
The issue of what the victim was wearing was raised again during the testimony of another witness, an Aqua Park administrative assistant who was at the facility with her family on her day off when the boy died.
Under questioning from the judge, the witness said there are regulations posted mandating that pool users wear appropriate attire. These rules extend to outfitting children with inflatable floatation devices, she added.
The woman also said the boy should have been accompanied by an adult at the larger pool in which he drowned.
“He should not have been there alone,” she said, adding it took “some time” to find the boy’s relatives at the water park. His sister was eventually located, the woman said.
She later disputed claims by the previous witness that the clinic lacked appropriate medical equipment.
However, she corroborated the earlier testimony that it took approximately 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
The next hearing is scheduled to take place on April 19, when the court is expected to hear from the victim’s sister and the lifeguard’s supervisor.
Which is why I will never step foot in that place…
Why would you? There is 645 km beach around Qatar. Plenty to choose from.
A water park and the beach are two completely different things.
645 KM true , but sadly 85%+ of it is owned privately or barricaded for miles with no proper entrances to it from highways , and if u drive across you are literately driving on private property 🙁
The place may have some safety issues before, but it is also the issue of careless parents. There is no content to indicate that the place is still inadequately staffed/trained as of now, or if there are any other issues apart from safety.
To not go there is your choice, to not go there due to a child drowning in 2012 is questionable – people unfortunately drown and accidents do happen in other places around the world.
Well, when Aquapark opened, it needed a lot of improvement and development and unfortunately such incident happened. I went now in 2014 several times, and I must say, it is definitely much better and have higher quantity of staff. I dont think its fair, that a case of 2012 will chase the Aquapark Qatars reputation forever, as the main thing is, after such an incident, that the Aquapark Owner and Management, needed to react and improve the facility, if not, Aquapark wouldnt deserve any respect.
I hope they improve health and safety standards in Qatar.
Hope is all we have left..
“During Sunday’s session, which the paramedic and representatives for the two companies failed to attend,” So it’s not just some people who that? Huhh!
Well the precedent has now been set. Charged with manslaughter? Relax. Attending trial is optional. If you don’t want to go, don’t bother. And besides, even if you are eventually found guilty for the manslaughter of a child, just ignore it and go about your business usual. You will be free to travel, represent your country abroad – everything you used to do prior to being found guilty by a Qatar court.
Unfortunately true. The Villaggio Mall Fire trial has set a precedent.
No, this is almost “standard procedure”… Has been so for 30+ years….
This needs to change.
The precedent has been set a long time ago, before what you think!
My advise to parents is to keep their kids off ALL the high shutes and keep an eye open at all times. Stick to the Pirate Island if you do go with your children.
I was at Wakrah Beach with friends last year and a child about 5-6 years old wondered in our area. He was hungry, thirsty, peed on himself and couldn’t direct us to his family. We literally split up and searched for almost half an hour before a careless woman came by and took her kid without as much as a thank you to my friend that was accompanying him while we all went to varying areas.
I haven’t been to Aqua Park but I’d put the first blame on his parents… where on God’s earth were you when your child was in a pool without any inflatable floating gear?
…Very good point Ms. Hala.
Very good point Ms Hala. While there appears from the testimony to have been inadequate equipment, staff, and training at the Aqua Park, this is ultimately the parents responsibility. You should not accompany or send your children to any pool or waterpark with the intention of letting someone else monitor them. I was a lifeguard for over 20 years in my younger days. We routinely expelled children from our pool if they came without adequate supervision. Its not reasonable to expect other people to ensure your child’s safety.
Yes, that is usually the policy in most pools across the States. I think such a policy needs to be applied at Aqua Park as well. Lifeguards, medics and staff are paid to do their job, and babysitting one’s child is not one of them.
A policy in a lot of public pools across the world, not only in the United States, and with that being said, common sense from parents about whereabouts of their own children.
Agreed but was merely stating on the policies based on where I’m from. And yes, I see a lot of parents lack the basics when it comes to their children, makes me wonder why they even had them.
i blame both sides the victim and the auqa park. why he was without an adult and when he was drowning there was none to report to save his life. . i see here in Doha many kids play on the road on cycles and don’t even care and sometimes come in front of the car, bullying with the drives on the internal roads of the city
Both sides – parents and the Aqua Park – may be culpable, but the whole incident would not have occurred had the parents;
1. Fitted the child with the supplied floatation devices.
2. Kept a close eye on their child that they know cannot swim or is not a strong swimmer.
3. Taken seriously that the duty of care for that child ultimately rests with them and taken the right steps to ensure that their child is protected from making bad/ dangerous choices – IE going into the pool in an area that is over their head.
4. Taught the child how to swim either themselves or through lessons before letting him go unsupervised in such dangerous place for a non-swimming child.
The guards should have been keeping an eye on things more closely, but none of this would have happened had the parents taken steps to prevent it.
The result is the sad loss of a young life, a devastated family and the parents, life guard and paramedic dragged through the Qatari court system. It’s such a waste!!
I am from Qatar , and you can build all the infrastructure and best attractions in the World , but without teaching people common sense and educating people your are only setting up a recipe for disaster!