Abu Dhabi policeman drowned trying to save son from rip tide, uncle says

Abdullah Al Makhmari, 38, and Saif, seven, were in the water near their home in Al Shalila when a current carried them away

Police recover the bodies of Abdullah Al Makhmari and his son Saif from the sea off Al Shalila after nearly four hours of searching. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Police.
Powered by automated translation

An Abu Dhabi Police officer and his son have been identified as the two Emiratis who drowned off the coast of the emirate on Sunday.

Police pulled the bodies of Abdullah Al Makhmari, 38, and Saif, seven, from the sea off Al Shalila beach at 9pm on Sunday, after almost four hours of searching.

Al Makhmari had taken three of his four sons – Mohammed, 12, Saif and Omar, three – to the public beach behind their house in Al Shalila.

The youngest son, Omar, was sitting in the car while Mohammed and Saif played in the shallow water, Al Makhmari's uncle Ahmad Al Makhmari, 43, told The National. The fourth son, Ibrahim, 10, stayed home.

“They were not even deep in the water or in a boat or anything – they were just by the beach,” he said.

Suddenly, Mohammed was sucked beneath the waves by a riptide – known locally as a jurf in Arabic.

The boys' father ran into the water and pulled him out.

"Then he saw that Saif was also sucked under and was completely underwater. So he dived down to get him, but they were both taken away by a current it seems," said Mr Al Makhmari, who arrived at the beach 30 minutes later.

Search and rescue teams began looking for the father and son at 5pm. It was only after a helicopter spotted the bodies at 9pm that the emergency services were able to retrieve them from the sea.

“When the incident happened, it was in the afternoon. Abdullah had prayed Asr [afternoon prayers] and went straight to the beach,” Mr Al Makhmari said.

“There were many beachgoers there, and young men playing with jet skis and small speed boats.”

Al Shalila – a small town 55 kilometres from Abu Dhabi city near Al Shahama and Al Bahia – is  home to beach houses that overlook private islands.

Abu Dhabi Municipality said in a statement that the sea in the area is not fit for swimming.

"Shalila sea is a water channel unfit for swimming, and there are signs there that say swimming is not allowed in most of the area, as there are no lifeguards there, as is the case with official beaches like Saadiyat and Hudayriat and others," the statement said.

"Currently work is undergoing in Shalila to rehabilitate it in co-operation with a number of government bodies. "

The family lived in the area for 38 years, Mr Al Makhmari said, "since [Al Shalila] was still all sand".

"Now it is popular for water activities," he said. "There are always young people riding jet skis and taking small speedboats out in the sea.”

He said the boys' father was regarded as a good swimmer.

Funeral prayers were held at Baniyas Cemetery Mosque and the family, including Al Makhmari's widow and three sons, will receive condolences at UAE Martyr’s Mosque in Al Shalila.