Father of boy who died on bus in Dubai calls for stricter safety laws

Mohamed Faisal Karakunhi is calling for more training for bus drivers and attendants to ensure no other family experiences what his has

Mohamed Farhan Faisal and his father, Mohamed Faisal Karakunhi. Courtesy Karakunhi family
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The father of a boy who died after being forgotten in a parked bus in Dubai has told of his family’s devastation at the loss of the “baby of the family”.

Mohamed Farhan Faisal, 6, is believed to have suffocated on Saturday after having been left on the bus going to Al Manar Islamic Centre, where he had been attending Arabic and Quran classes for 10 months.

His father said Farhan was picked up from their family home at 7.30am and likely fell asleep during the journey to Al Quoz.

Farhan’s body was discovered by the bus driver at around 11am. The driver called police but first responders were unable to resuscitate the boy. He was buried in a private ceremony at Al Quoz Cemetery Mosque the following day.

Mohamed Faisal Karakunhi, 50, told The National he blamed his son's death on "negligence from the driver and the [company] administration".

The textiles businessman, who moved to Dubai 15 years ago, said he hoped his son’s death would prompt more stringent bus safety laws and prevent the deaths of other children.

“In this case, there was only one driver and he was not trained and he just left him and went. [Farhan] was sleeping so nobody noticed,” Mr Karakunhi said.

Farhan died after being left on a bus for hours during the intense summer heat. Courtesy Dubai Police
Farhan died after being left on a bus for hours during the intense summer heat. Courtesy Dubai Police

He said all bus drivers, particularly those who transport children, should be trained to search their vehicles in case a child has been left behind.

“Someone should check the bus after all the children have left. There are laws but these are not being implemented.”

In 2017, safety measures for school buses were rolled out across Dubai and the Northern Emirates. These included swipe card access, motion sensors and alarms. It is unclear if those laws applied to the vehicle hired by Al Manar Islamic Centre since it was not an official school bus.

Farhan, a grade one student at Gems Our Own English School in Al Warqa, was the youngest of four siblings and doted on by his three elder sisters aged 16, 17 and 21.

Mr Karakunhi said a messaging system, similar to the one implemented by his son’s school, should be introduced to buses and other education centres.

“When my child is absent in school, I immediately get a message that your child is absent but in the madrassa [an Islamic school], there is no such system. If I received this message that he was missing I could take action immediately.

“Whether it is a madrassa or a school, all of them are children and there should be concern for everyone,” he said.

“This is negligence. Even if there is human error, someone should double-check.”

Mr Karakunhi said that with temperatures as high as 48C outside, the temperature inside the bus must have been much higher.

"This should not happen to any other child."

He said their family was still reeling from the loss of their youngest son, who was a quiet boy who mostly kept to himself.

“Farhan was very fond of drawing and would draw every single day. He would sketch animals, as he loved them. He drew dinosaurs and he was intelligent and could sketch many kinds of dinosaurs,” he said.

“He was the baby of the family. I always told him to make more friends but he was fond of the few friends he had.

“His teachers said he did not talk much but he used to say 'I will talk when necessary, why do I have to talk all the time?' He was mature for his age.

“He was very fond of learning but did not talk much especially with strangers.

Like many children his age, Farhan enjoyed watching games and reviews of his toys on YouTube. His father said only last week, he bought Farhan a cowboy outfit that the boy would dress up in.

“He was very fond of horses but when he was asked about his favourite animal, he chose the tiger as it sounded more boyish.

“He was very close to the family. After so many years we had a boy and he was pampered. He would tell us everything when he came home from school.

“He loved his Hindi teacher and last week he was very happy when he got a star. He told me ‘Only I got a star today!’

“Whenever he felt appreciated he was very happy.”