RAS AL KHAIMAH // Hundreds of mourners travelled from across RAK to pay their respects to Jassim Al Baloushi, the firefighter who died while battling the flames aboard Emirates flight EK521 after it crashed on Wednesday at Dubai airport.
People flocked to Sheikh Rashid Mosque in Kharran, the hometown of the firefighter on the outskirts of RAK city, including Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of RAK, for the funeral, followed by prayers at Al Saliehia Cemetery.
Al Baloushi was 27, the elder brother of Harib, 16, and Salman, 22, and brother to two sisters. He was well-known in his community for his good deeds, high energy and love of volunteering.
His father, Issa, and his two brothers stood alongside cousins and other family members who were in tears at the overwhelming number of people in attendance.
“My eldest son died a hero while saving the lives of the plane passengers. He is a martyr, and he will be missed greatly,” said the father.
Harib could not contain his tears as he saw the body of his older brother laid to rest.
“He was a role model and a hero – he loved his country and loved his work,” the teenager said.
Salman said his brother was loved by everyone in their area.
“He was courageous, friendly and supportive of his family, his friends and community,” said the brother, who was to have joined Dubai Police force today.
“Everyone in RAK knows the heroism of my brother. He had saved many lives. If you check Snapchat, you will find officials saying brave things that my brother did.”
Ismail Karam, Al Baloushi’s cousin, said he spoke to the firefighter hours before his death.
“He is my brother – we were raised in the same home together – he was my companion and best friend,” he said.
“He called me yesterday at 5.30am and wished me safe travels, and later in the day, we got the news that he died.”
Mohammed Ibrahim, Al Baloushi’s uncle, said family members tried to call the firefighter after they heard about the incident at the airport.
“His mother heard about the aeroplane in Dubai and asked us to check up on him but his mobile (phone) was off. We knew that he was on duty, and we never heard from him again.”
As the investigation into the crash continued, the family said they did not know how Al Baloushi died. “Officials told us that they were awaiting investigation results,” Mr Ibrahim said.
The country’s leaders tweeted about the firefighter on Wednesday. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “As bereaved as we are over Jassim, we are nonetheless proud of our men and their sacrifice in the line of duty as they protect lives and save people. These are men that make their nation proud for generations.”
And Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, tweeted: “We offer our condolences to the family and friends of the nation’s martyr and we pray Allah grant them patience and solace.”
Saif Al Suwaidi, director of the General Civil Aviation Authority, said: “I salute his ultimate sacrifice that kept many from harm’s way. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Retired police officer Hussein Mohamed Ali went from Dubai to pay his respects to the Al Baloushi’s family.
“It’s a great honour to die in the line of duty. I hope his family find solace that their son was a hero and is now in heaven,” he said.
Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports chief executive, said: “We mourn the passing of Jassim Al Baloushi and mark his passing with all the respect he deserves.”
Delegations from Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah Police also paid their respects to the family of the firefighter.