A British dad and his two kids drowned in a hotel swimming pool in the Costa del Sol after the youngest child lost her balance and got out of her depth, it has been claimed.
Nine-year-old Comfort Diya got into difficulties after slipping in the pool and drifting towards the deep end.
Her older brother Praise-Emmanuel, 16, jumped in to help her followed by their Christian pastor father Gabriel, 52, according to Spanish newspaper reports.
All three died at the pool in the holiday resort Club La Costa World near Fuengirola, at around 2pm on Christmas Eve.
Spanish newspaper Sur reports that survivor sister Favour, 14, told police investigators her sister slipped into the pool and none of the three victims, who lived in Charlton, south east London, knew how to swim properly.
The pair are understood to have been playing when the incident occurred.
Francisco Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Civil Guard union AUGC, confirmed overnight: “The surviving sister has said they didn’t know how to swim.
“With that information and the fact we know the water in the pool was very cold, the mystery of what caused this awful tragedy begins to unravel itself.”
Comfort is said to have had some swimming lessons, but only in shallow water where she could touch the bottom of the pool.
Favour told police she saw her 16-year-old brother in difficulties as he tried to rescue his sister and went to look for a life buoy as their 52-year-old dad began to strip off to jump in, Sur reported.
The children’s mum Olubunmi, 49, was in the family’s holiday apartment at the time but is understood to have backed Favour’s claim that none of them could swim.
Police and a Fuengirola court coordinating the judicial investigation into the tragedy have yet to officially rule out any issues with the pool and the Civil Guard was still insisting the probe was “ongoing.”
But the family revelation about the drowning victims’ lack of swimming skills has taken the focus off the pool pump system after it was speculated that their could have been problems with its suction.
Spanish media have claimed Comfort’s swimming cap had been found in the suction system.
Police sources later confirmed it had been discovered in the pool drainage grid but insisted divers had not identified any problems that could have caused dangerous suction entrapment when they were in the water after the tragedy.
A later Spanish media report said the swimming cap had been located in a pool skimmer basket where things like leaves or insects normally end up.
Resort chiefs said on Christmas Day that the Civil Guard, the police force leading the investigation into the triple tragedy, had given them permission to reopen the pool which is one of several on the sprawling holiday complex but was being little used because it was not heated like some others.
Resort operator CLC World Resorts and Hotels put out a statement which said: “All at Club La Costa World resort are devastated by the tragedy that unfolded on Christmas Eve where a father and his two children were found unresponsive in a swimming pool and despite the best efforts of our first response team and the emergency services, could not be revived.
“The Guardia Civil have carried out a full investigation which found no concerns relating to the pool in question or procedures in place, which leaves us to believe this was a tragic accident which has left everyone surrounding the incident in shock.
“Naturally our primary concern remains the care and support of the remaining family members.
“We would therefore request that their privacy be respected at this traumatic time.”
Police say it had never authorised the reopening of the pool because the resort operator was responsible for the holiday complex and the safety of its holidaymakers, and officers had never closed it in the first place.
Autopsies performed at Malaga’s Institute of Forensic Medicine on Christmas Day gave the cause of death as drowning.
Pathologists found no signs of any external injuries, or evidence they had been poisoned, during the examinations.
Medical experts have also found nothing pointing to Comfort’s sister suffering any chlorine poisoning in the pool, which is just over six-and-a-half feet deep at its deepest point.
Gabriel’s widow and surviving daughter, who were due to fly back to the UK on Friday after a week-long holiday, are currently being comforted by other relatives who flew to Spain from Britain after learning of the tragedy.
It is not yet clear whether they will delay their return or jet back home as scheduled.
A witness who helped perform CPR on pastor dad-of-three Mr Diya told how his wife prayed and touched her loved ones’ bodies to try to will them back to life.
Dad-of-three Josias Fletchman, from Manchester, said in a moving account of how he tried to save them: “The mum was praying for them to come back to life.
“She was calm. She was touching their bodies. She continued praying even after the ambulance people arrived and had stopped trying to revive them.
“She exercised her faith to the limit. I was performing CPR on her husband but I’m a believer and I prayed as well.
“She strengthened me in the way she reacted. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Mr Diya was head of Open Heavens, a London branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God network founded in Nigeria. He also ran his own property business.
His widow, an assistant pastor, is a systems analyst who owns her own software firm.
Praise-Emmanuel, a Bexleyheath Grammar School student, was the only one of the five relatives who was not travelling on a British passport. Police described the teenager, thought to have been born in Illinois, as American in the wake of the tragedy.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God posted a tribute on Facebook on Thursday which said: “With heavy hearts, we extend our condolences to the family, parish, friends and associates of Area Pastor Gabriel Diya who sadly passed away, along with two of his children in a tragic accident while on a family holiday in Spain.
“At this very difficult time, our prayers are for Pastor Gabriel Diya’s family, the parishes that were under his supervision, friends, associates members of RCCGs and the general public.”
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