Graduation party turns to tragedy as youth, 16, dies

Death of English College pupil Anton Tahmasian leaves friends and family devastated.

25 JUNE 2001. Photo from aN RIP Facebook Tribute site in memory of Anton Tahmasian who is reported to have died after inhaling Butane. NOTE USE ONLY AS 1 COL. PIC

DUBAI // A memorial service was held yesterday for a teenage boy who collapsed at a Dubai house party and died soon after in hospital. Anton Tahmasian, 16, a pupil at The English College, Dubai, fell ill during a graduation party in a villa in the gated community Sidra Village, according to witnesses. He was rushed to hospital but died soon after arrival.

One witness told how the party on Thursday night turned to tragedy. "I saw all the kids running out and panicking, some of them were crying outside by the pool," said the witness, who declined to give his name. "We found the boy on the floor and someone screaming for police." Neither officers from the Bur Dubai police station nor the school would comment on the death. More than 50 people, including friends and family, attended the service at the English College's auditorium yesterday afternoon.

A friend who was present at the memorial said: "It was really tragic to hear what happened. I knew Anton well and our families knew each other for several years. They are really sad." Anton's family and younger sister, Karmen, were being consoled yesterday by teachers and classmates at their home in the Greens Community. Friends have reacted with dismay at the loss of the popular student. One friend, Gabi Cohen, said: "All I can tell you was that Anton was an incredibly special person, he has changed and touched the lives of so many people.

"[He] was the life of all the parties and there are no words to describe how much we are all going to miss him." Hundreds have also paid tribute on a Facebook page set up in his memory. Friends have posted photos of Anton, a skilled rugby player and keen scuba diver, out on the field with his English College rugby team and lazing about in the pool. Andrew Alosina Fa'avale posted: "Played against Anton & EC at touch finals last Tues. Disbelief! Coached Anton at EC a couple of times and watched him play rugby from afar this year and became a massive fan - natural skill balanced with heaps of heart. RIP and God bless to his family."

In another message, Maya McNicholas said: "Lived next door to Anton for over seven years and we practically grew up together. He had the biggest heart I have ever seen in a person. He lived passionately and did everything in his power to make everyone around him smile. I consider myself lucky to have been able to share in his beautiful life. Love you forever Anton and see you again one day. You're always in my heart. God bless you."

Fleur Van Rhyn-behm wrote: "This doesn't seem real, a few months ago we were camping in the desert and driving away from some guy chasing us out of big red, I will never forget that. I'm going to miss you." Amanda Adams wrote: "I never thought i'd have to say goodbye so soon, no one did. you were always so bright, and full of life, its a real shame...even though I wasnt the closest of mates, I can still be proud to have spent time with you."

Last night, more than 1,000 people had joined the Facebook group to offer condolences.