Off-duty Dubai marine police chief saves girl, 4, from drowning

Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi sprang into action while on holiday with his family

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An off-duty marine rescue director came to the aid of a girl aged 4 who nearly drowned in a hotel swimming pool.

Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi proved to be the right man in the right place at the right time, when he spotted the young Emirati struggling in the water.

The head of Dubai Police's maritime rescue department was enjoying a break with his family at an Abu Dhabi hotel during the Eid Al Fitr holiday when the incident occurred.

“We were at the pool when I spotted the girl sinking and unable to restore balance to keep her head above water,” he said.

She had swallowed some water and vomited part of it into the pool, so I positioned her properly, tilting her head to clear the airway and help her breath right after I pulled her out
Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi, Dubai Police

The officer leapt into the pool fully dressed to bring the youngster to safety.

While lifeguards were on duty at the time, the senior officer's years of experience meant he was on high alert for any potential dangers.

“She had swallowed some water and vomited part of it into the pool, so I positioned her properly, tilting her head to clear the airway and help her breath right after I pulled her out,” he said.

He stayed with her until he was sure she was OK.

He couldn't say the same for his mobile phone and wallet - which he was carrying when he jumped into the pool.

“I had to buy a new mobile phone and as for my debit cards, they no longer connect to Wi-Fi when I’m making payments - but nothing is more valuable than saving someone’s life,” he said.

Not his first life saved

The father of seven, who joined the ranks as a police corporal back in 1991, inherited a love of the sea and nature from his parents, who brought him up in an area of Sharjah surrounded by mountains and water.

In an interview with The National in 2018, he recalled another incident when he saved a life while off duty.

A man was drowning in the sea at Al Mamzar as his brother stood screaming for help.

“There was no time for hesitation, I informed the operations room then jumped in the water without rubber swimming fins. It was dark and the wind was very strong.”

He still bears a scar on his ankle from hitting a rock when he jumped into the sea.

Lt Col Al Naqbi placed the man on his back until a rescue boat arrived and took them to dry land.

He also previously rescued a 3-year-old girl from drowning when on holiday in Syria.

His efforts have earned him the nickname "Agent 007" for his dedication to the cause.

The marine safety chief has called for safety measures to be bolstered at public pools in the country.

He recommends more handles on the sides of pools and ladders to be installed for children to grab if they encounter difficulties while swimming.

“More safety tools are needed and access to them should be made easier,” he said.

Lt Col Al Naqbi suggested setting up a body that monitors safety standards at swimming centres.

“Such a department would ensure that swimming pools in all types of facilities whether gyms or hotels provide more safety to children in particular.”

Supervision is key

Daniel Heimann, an expert in safety and rescue with Dubai Police, said parental supervision is critical and remains the number one factor in drowning prevention. Photo: Salam Al Amir.

Daniel Heimann, a safety and rescue expert with Dubai Police, said having key safety precautions in place, coupled with comprehensive supervision, was vital.

“It must be what we call ‘within arms reach’ supervision,” Mr Heimann told The National.

“For the 30 seconds a life guard is concentrating on something else in the pool there is a blind spot and somebody can always slip through it.

He said it was crucial that lifeguards were on duty and that parents supervised their children closely - especially younger ones.

“Parents should be watching their children all the time but using cell phones is a leading cause of distraction for parents," he said.

“Children who are as young as four years must be supervised every second until they finish swimming and are out of the pool.”

He advised parents who were not confident in their children's swimming abilities to put inflatable armbands on them.

“It's not a guarantee and it doesn’t mean you don’t watch your child, its only an added layer of protection.”

He said most incidents in swimming pools or water tubs involve children aged between 3 and 16.

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Updated: June 16, 2022, 6:46 AM