Abbas and Alefiyah at the family’s residence in Al Badia Residences in Dubai. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: A family from Dubai was holidaying at a resort near Mumbai when they heard a big splash in the swimming pool – a man who didn’t know how to swim had just fallen into the deep end.

Without a moment’s hesitation, siblings Alefiyah Akil and Abbas Akil rushed to his aid and saved him from drowning.

The incident, which occurred on August 7, prompted Fariyas Resort Lonavla to present a letter of appreciation to Alefiyah, 17, and Abbas, 13.

Their mother Fatima told Gulf News on Tuesday she is preparing the nomination papers for the siblings for India’s coveted National Bravery Award, which honours the courageous acts of Indian children, for the 2018-19 edition.

We had no professional experience or background in anything like this, but we could swim and we knew what we had to do — and that was to save this man.

- Abbas Akil

The first edition, held in 1958, saw the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru present the award to a 14-year-old scout who ripped open a burning tent, saving scores of lives. Another child was also awarded. Since then, the Indian Council for Child Welfare has continued the tradition.

Letter of appreciation

The hotel has sent a letter of appreciation to the children.

Recounting what happened that day, the siblings said they were the only ones around who knew how to swim when a heavyset middle-aged hotel guest apparently slipped and fell into the deep end of the swimming pool after its closing time at night.

Alefiyah, a grade 12 student at GEMS Our Own English High School in Al Warqa, Dubai, said she was playing table tennis with her father near the pool when she heard a splash.

I trust my swimming, I’ve been swimming from a small age. I couldn’t just leave him there, knowing I could swim. I did what I had to, I wasn’t really scared.

- Alefiyah Akil

“When I saw it was a man drowning, I jumped in without thinking twice,” she added.

“He was petrified and trying to hold on to anything he could. I was struggling to keep him and myself afloat because he was inadvertently dragging me down with him, and he was a heavy man.”

Also seeing what had just happened, Abbas had quickly assessed the danger of the situation. He dove to the bottom of the pool so he could push up the drowning man. Working together, the siblings managed to bring the man to the edge of pool where hotel guests pulled him out to safety.

Abbas, a grade eight student at GEMS New Millennium School in Al Khail, Dubai, said: “We had no professional experience or background in anything like this, but we could swim and we knew what we had to do – and that was to save this man. I was kind of scared because I hadn’t taken a deep breath when I dove in, I just reacted and jumped in. I was underwater for close to a minute, I think.”

Alefiyah said all she needed to know before she made the split-second decision to jump in was that there was a man drowning and she knew how to swim.

“I trust my swimming, I’ve been swimming from a small age. I couldn’t just leave him there, knowing I could swim. I did what I had to, I wasn’t really scared,” she added.

There was no lifeguard as the pool had closed and the man’s family and other guests there at the time didn’t know how to swim, the siblings said.

Their parents had also encouraged them to rush to the man’s aid. Fatima said: “Seeing the situation, Alefiyah jumped in to save him, without thinking about her injured foot, which was bandaged after getting cut earlier that day by a broken tile on the pool’s floor.”

She added: “The man came around to his senses after some time and his family were thanking us. I felt so proud of my children.”

“It had all happened so fast, at first I didn’t know it was my daughter rescuing the man. When I saw her – and then also how their father also encouraged both of them in the rescue – I was confident they would be OK.”