AL AIN // A father and his 10-year-old son and five-year-old daughter died in a head-on car crash in Al Ain yesterday.
Another son aged 7 is in critical condition in hospital with a skull fracture. The children's mother and two other sons aged 15 and 19 were also injured.
The little girl who died was not in a child car seat and no one in the vehicle appeared to have been wearing a seatbelt, an emergency-room doctor said. "The injuries are consistent with those an unrestrained person suffers in a collision."
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The children's uncle, Abdullah al Shamsi, said their mother was under sedation last night and did not know her husband, son and daughter were dead.
He identified the victims as Khalfan al Shamsi, his son Mohammed and daughter Mira, who was supposed to start preschool yesterday.
"It was a complete shock to us all," Mr al Shamsi said. "We drove here from Oman and Abu Dhabi right away to be at my sister's side. We are extremely saddened. The whole family is in mourning.
"It's hard to believe that they woke up today to take the kids to school and now my brother-in-law, my niece and my nephew are dead."
The crash happened between 7am and 8am on Zayed bin Sultan Street near Bawadi Mall. A Honda Civic jumped the central reservation and slammed head-on into the family’s SUV, causing it to flip over, a police investigator said.
The driver of the Civic suffered minor cuts to his face. He told police he had lost control after being been cut off by another driver. The Civic driver is in police custody.
Khalfan al Shamsi and Mohammed were pronounced dead at the scene. Mira was rushed to Tawam Hospital, but doctors were unable to save her.
Mrs al Shamsi and the two older boys were treated at Al Ain Hospital. The seven-year-old is in the intensive-care unit of Tawam Hospital.
“This was a sad morning for us all,” said the emergency-room doctor, a member of the medical team who treated Mira. “We haven’t had a day this difficult in a long time.”
Seatbelts and child restraints play a critical role in saving lives, John Hughes, the regional manager for ARRB Group, the road-safety research and consulting organisation, said yesterday.
“They are both mandatory and extremely effective. It is essential to use these precautions all the time.”
However, Mr Hughes said, such safety measures are not used enough in the UAE.
Figures from the Middle East Road Safety conference in January showed that 98 per cent of toddlers in the UAE are not properly restrained in car seats.
“You can see children readily standing up in cars, bouncing around, climbing from the back to the front seats, and even sitting on the parent’s lap holding the steering wheel,” he said.
Besides all the obvious risks, even the airbag poses a threat to children sitting in the front seat of a vehicle, he said. “Anyone who is not wearing a seatbelt is waiting for an accident to happen.”
Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, a highway and road safety expert in Abu Dhabi, said parents needed to educate their children about the importance of using seatbelts.
“It goes without saying, seatbelts save lives,” he said. “Studies show that seatbelts increase the chances of survival and reduce the impact of accidents. Parents need to take this more seriously.”
Brig Gen Mohammed al Minhali, commander of the Traffic Police Department, expressed his sorrow at the tragic loss of life, and said his department was striving to educate the public about safe driving.
The accident remains under investigation.
* With additional reporting by Manal Ismail