Tragedy strikes on Christmas Eve as two children and their father drown at Club La Costa

Officers at the scene of the tragedy.
Officers at the scene of the tragedy. / FERNANDO TORRES
  • The investigation continues into finding the cause of the events involving a family from London visiting Mijas for their Christmas holidays

A Guardia Civil taskforce continues to investigate the cause of the death of a man and two of his children in a swimming pool at the Club La Costa resort in Mijas on Tuesday, Christmas Eve.

The autopsy, which was carried out on Wednesday, showed that the three victims all died from drowning and that there were no signs of either intoxication or injury which could have led to their deaths.

According to various sources, the events took place at around 1.30pm on Tuesday. The victims are three members of the same family, British and American nationals, who had come to the area from London for their Christmas holidays. They had arrived in the province last Saturday, 21 December, and were planning on staying in one of the resort's apartments until Saturday.

Sources explain that the nine-year-old girl was playing in the water when she got into difficulties. Her older brother, 16, then jumped into the water to try and rescue her, an action repeated by their father, 52. None of them could swim, the family later confirmed; all three lost their lives.

The man's wife (and mother of their children) and their older daughter (who had just been playing in the water), were the ones who raised the alarm. The emergency services immediately attended the scene.

Club La Costa World management has said that the workers closest to the pool came to the site as soon as they began to hear the distress calls. Several employees, as well as a guest, carried out CPR manoeuvres; the complex's doctor also arrived within minutes and carried out first aid until the emergency services arrived.

However, nothing could be done to save their lives. After their deaths were certified, their bodies were transferred to the Institute of Legal Medicine (IML) in Malaga, where an autopsy took place on Wednesday.

Victims named

The three victims were named in the UK press on Thursday afternoon: the father, Gabriel Diya, belonged to the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and was an area pastor at a church in Charlton in south-east London. The group paid tribute to him in a Facebook post: "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."

His children have also been named as Comfort, 9, and Praise-Emmanuel Diya, 16.

Possible causes

The Guardia Civil have taken charge of the investigation to clarify what happened. The main theory was that the girl initially began to struggle because of a problem in the pool's suction system. This theory was supported by the fact that the person who first went in to help the family also apparently struggled to get out of the water. The family's other daughter, who had been in the water just before the incident, didn't have any irritation of the eyes or lungs, ruling out chlorine poisoning.

The pool has since been examined by expert technicians; they searched in the pool for the presence of items of clothing belonging to the deceased and found a swimming cap belonging to the girl in the suction system. They also took water samples.

Following the inspections, however, Club La Costa World management said that the pool was given the all-clear by the Guardia Civil to reopen on Wednesday after finding no faults.

No lifeguard

A spokesman for the resort said that at the time of the incident there was no company personnel at the scene because, due to its size, the pool did not require a lifeguard.

The company has also conveyed its condolences to the family and has assured that it is working with the Guardia Civil to clarify what happened.

For those staying at Club La Costa this Christmas the news came as a shock. Several witnesses have explained to SUR that there was a lot of panic at the time.

"It was horrible," said one of the residents who witnessed the events and tried to revive one of the victims.

A team of psychologists was dispatched to the scene to offer round-the-clock comfort and assistance to the family of the deceased and some of the witnesses affected by the incident.