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Britons who drowned on Costa del Sol could not swim, police say

Spain Britons who drowned on Costa del Sol could not swim, police say

Tributes paid to Gabriel Diya and two children after they drown in swimming pool

Gabriel Diya, 52, and Comfort, nine, both died along with Diya’s son Praise-Emmanuel, 16. Photograph: Facebook

Tributes have been paid to a British man and his two children who drowned in a hotel swimming pool in Spain, as local authorities said it was believed the victims did not know how to swim.

Gabriel Diya, a 52 year-old London-based pastor, his son Praise-Emmanuel Diya, 16, and daughter Comfort Diya, nine, died on Christmas Eve at the Club La Costa World resort on the Spanish coast.

Comfort’s school, Windrush primary in Charlton, paid tribute to the “most wonderfully kind, thoughtful and caring pupil”.

In a post on the school’s website, the executive headteacher, Jo Marchant, said everyone was devastated by the news. She added: “Comfort was the most wonderfully kind, thoughtful caring pupil who was a role model for her peers; she will be greatly missed by the whole school community, adults and children alike.”

Marchant said support would be available for any pupil or parent who needs it when school resumes on 6 January.

According to Spanish police, Comfort got into difficulty while playing in a swimming pool at the resort. It is believed the girl slipped and got out of her depth.

Praise-Emmanuel jumped into the pool followed by Gabriel. None of the three, who lived in Charlton, south-east London, and have links to the US, knew how to swim properly, police sources said on Friday. Praise-Emmanuel was born in Illinois and has a US passport.

Comfort slipped and, failing to regain her footing, drifted towards the deep end of the pool at the holiday resort near Fuengirola at around 2pm on Christmas Eve.

Despite poolside attempts to resuscitate them, all three died at the scene. Postmortems confirmed death by drowning.

Francisco Gonzalez, a spokesman for the police union AUGC, told Spanish media 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.

Diya’s daughter Favour, 14, witnessed the incident. She told police she had seen her brother get into difficulties as he tried to save his sibling and she had tried to find a lifebuoy. In the meantime her father stripped off to jump in, the Spanish newspaper Diario Sur reported.

Diya was minister in charge at Open Heavens in Charlton, south-east London, which is part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), a Nigeria-based network of religious groups.

A neighbour said she was “really devastated” to learn of the deaths, describing the Diyas as “very religious, very friendly, very humble”.

Speaking outside her home in Charlton, south-east London, Lara Akins, 59, added: “I still can’t comprehend it, it’s still shocking. They are so nice, that is why everybody is shocked … we are very friendly with each other.”
Police divers retrieved the girl’s swimming hat from the pool’s pump, but found nothing wrong with the filtration and pump system.

The pool did not have lifeguards on duty at the time of the incident, according to local reports. Several employees rushed to the poolside when they heard the screams for help, performing CPR and using defibrillators to try and revive Diya and the two children.

Diya’s wife, Olubumni Diya, and Favour have been given psychological treatment.

The resort management, which has opened an internal investigation into the incident, denied any negligence and insisted there was “no problem” with the pool which was “totally fit for swimming”. It has since reopened to the public.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) said in a post on Facebook: “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 incident while on a family holiday in Spain.”

It added: “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 RCCG and the general public.”

One person posted beneath it saying: “I met Pastor Gabriel Diya at a church inauguration in Margate, Kent some few years back. He was such an energetic and passionate servant of God. May the Lord grant His people the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.”

Management at the resort said all the staff are “devastated by the tragedy” . It said that “despite the best efforts of our first response team and the emergency services”, the family could not be revived.

In a statement, it added: “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​.”

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