Girl, 3, left on Abu Dhabi school bus died of heat exhaustion, court hears

Nizaha Aalaa, a KG-1 pupil at Al Worood Academy Private School, in the capital, was in her first month of school when she was left on the bus on the morning of October 7.
Nizaha Aalaa, 3, died from heat exhaustion after being left alone on a school bus. Five people are on trial in connection with her death in October. Courtesy family members
Nizaha Aalaa, 3, died from heat exhaustion after being left alone on a school bus. Five people are on trial in connection with her death in October. Courtesy family members

ABU DHABI // A little girl who died after being locked inside her school bus was killed by heat exhaustion, a court was told on Tuesday.

Nizaha Aalaa, 3, was in her first month at Al Worood Academy Private School in Abu Dhabi when she was left on the bus on the morning of October 7.

The coroner who examined the body, Dr Youssef Ibrahim, told Abu Dhabi Court of Misdemeanours she showed signs of having been inside the vehicle for several hours, with no air conditioning.

The school principal and administrator are accused of negligence. Their lawyer, Hassan Al Reyami, asked the coroner if her death could have been caused by someone attacking her. “It is possible for this to happen, if a big person attacked her, we cannot rule it out,” Dr Ibrahim said.

Mr Al Reyami drew attention to details in the forensic report that said Nizaha had injuries to her head and body caused by crashing against a hard object.

The coroner replied: “This is natural since the victim hit the floor of the bus with the left side of her head.”

Mohammed Al Dhanhani, the head of family prosecution, asked what the direct cause of death was. Heat exhaustion, the coroner replied.

The actions of the two accused directly caused Nizaha’s death after she was abandoned on her school bus, and each was trying to deflect responsibility on to the other, Mr Al Dhanhani said.

Five people are on trial in connection with the child’s death.

Prosecutors say the principal endangered the lives of pupils because he oversaw the use of a bus company that provided unlicensed buses for school use, and unlicensed bus supervisors. He denies that he hired the company. The school administrator is accused of negligence because she did not compare attendance records on the bus with those from the classroom.

The owner of the bus company is accused of endangering pupils’ lives with the use of unlicensed buses and drivers, and the bus driver and the supervisor are charged with negligence for allowing Nizaha to be left on the bus.

“First of all, leaving the girl in the bus, by the supervisor and the driver, caused her death,” said Mr Al Dhanhani.

“And second, when the administrator and her colleague did not act strictly upon the disappearance of the victim, she was not saved.”

The supervisor checked only the first few rows of the bus after the children got off, and therefore did not notice Nizaha asleep in the back seat.

The school administrator said that for many years it had been a daily practice to compare the attendance sheet of the children on the bus and the pupils actually in class.

However, on the day of the incident she said she was busy with other tasks, and in any case there were many absences because it was the first day after Eid Al Adha holidays, so she did not check.

“This is a clear violation of … school regulations, which say the school is responsible for the students on behalf of their parents while they are at school or using school transport,” said Mr Al Dhanhani. He said the principal’s defence, that he had asked Abu Dhabi Education Council many times for authorisation to raise school fees to pay for a change of transport company because buses did not meet safety standards, was in fact evidence of his guilt.

“This … shows he was aware that the buses were unsafe for school transfer and yet he used them anyway,” said Mr Al Dhanhani.

The bus supervisor said she worked as a cleaner at the school but was given the job of supervising children on the bus despite not being licensed to do so.

Defence lawyers asked for an adjournment to prepare their cases in response to the coroner’s report and prosecution claims. The bus supervisor also asked for an adjournment to appoint a lawyer.

The trial continues on January 11.

hdajani@thenational.ae

Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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