UK pastor and two children who drowned in hotel pool ‘could not swim’

A British father who drowned along with two of his children in a pool in the Costa del Sol on Christmas Eve was a Christian pastor who reportedly could not swim.

Gabriel Diya, 52, his daughter Comfort Diya, nine, and his son Praise-Emmanuel Diya, 16, died in the triple tragedy at the Club La Costa World holiday resort.

Reports suggest Comfort struggled in the water before her brother and father jumped in, in a failed attempt to rescue her.

Another daughter who was not harmed told Spanish police none of the three were able to swim, according to Spanish daily newspaper El Pais.

A neighbour of the family told the PA news agency she was "really devastated" to learn of the deaths, describing the Diyas as "very religious, very friendly, very humble".

With heavy hearts, we extend our condolences to the family, parish, friends and associates of Area Pastor Gabriel Diya...

Posted by Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Central Office, UK on Thursday, December 26, 2019

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."

Local reports said Spanish police were investigating the pool pump for a possible failure, with a report in Malaga's Diario Sur newspaper saying Comfort's swimming cap was found in the pool's suction system.

But inquiries have found "no concerns relating to the pool in question" and the incident appears to be a "tragic accident", according to hotel operator CLC World Resorts and Hotels.

In a statement the firm said: "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."

Local freelance journalist Gerard Couzens told the BBC the pool, at the resort near the town of Fuengirola, has since re-opened after being given the all-clear by Spanish police.

Spain Pool Deaths
The entrance Club La Costa World holiday resort near Malaga, Spain. (AP)

Mr Diya's Facebook account lists him as a pastor at Open Heavens London, a Christian religious group with origins in Nigeria, based in Charlton.

It is part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which posted in tribute 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.

"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."

Emma Morris, 38, daughter of another neighbour of the Diyas, said her mother Pauline Morris, 64, knew them as "really nice people".

She told PA: "They were just a really nice family, they spoke to everyone here.

"It's so sad, it's such a shame."

A witness said Mr Diya's wife Olubunmi prayed as CPR was performed on her husband and children at the Mijas resort, near the town of Fuengirola, according to a report in The Mirror.

Father-of-three Josias Fletchman was quoted as saying: "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."

It is understood Mr Diya and Comfort were British citizens, while Praise-Emmanuel was an American citizen.

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