Fujairah Collage

Fujairah Collage
Some distinctive landmarks in Fujairah

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tears, Tributes and Talk of Francis Crippen in Fujairah, UAE

Update and Pictures at this link. Several positive things happened today in Fujairah following yesterday’s tragedy when American open water swimmer Francis Crippen died during a 10-kilometre Swimming World Cup event.

Flowers and Tears
Most of those who had participated the day before as swimmers, supporters and race officials returned to the scene at the Fujairah International Marine Club.

The staff at the Marine Club took the mourners to the site where divers had found Fran Crippen, 500 metres out from the land and in water 7-8 metres deep. After the three boats linked together Valerijus Belovas, Fina's Technical Director, called for a minute’s silence before people dropped white roses into the water.

Words seemed inappropriate at such a time but through flowers, tears and hugs this floating community of grief signalled their love, expressed their thanks and made their farewells.

Locals Express Their Grief
Major Ahmed Ebrahim Al Beloushi, the Managing Director of the Fujairah International Marine Club, was at the helm of one of the three boats and he gave a spontaneous statement from the heart.

Ahmed expressed his condolences to all present and acknowledged the grieving family and friends in the USA and around the world. “We are also sad and in grief,” he said. “We are deeply sorry that this has happened here in Fujairah.” He then extended the hope that people would return to the UAE: “If you or your loved ones return, especially to pay your respects, we will always make boats available for you to come out here on the water.”

This afternoon's gathering on the water was a thoughtful initiative by FINA and UAE Swimming. Its spontaneity and informality was appropriate to unite those in grief and give a measure of closure. Later this evening in the lobby of the Nour Arjann Rotana (the sponsoring hotel) in Fujairah’s main street, Valerijus Belovas, expressed the observation that many of the swimmers and their supporters were opening up and talking more.

Press Conference
A media conference was held this afternoon by FINA and UAE Swimming at the conference room of the Fujairah International Marine Club. Numerous stories had been posted and reposted over night and it was helpful to elucidate more facts and have some questions answered.

Here are some points that arose from the reports:
+ Francis Crippen appears to have gone missing in the fourth round of the course.

+ From the time the swimmer's absence was reported by his coach it took 1 hour 10 minutes to locate his body.

+ No exact position could be given as to where Francis was lost so coastguard divers had to scour a large area in their search.

+ Later the coach asked for a helicopter to join the search but before one could be cleared for take off the body of Francis Crippen had been found.

+ Major Ahmed said that the Fujairah location was a late decision of UAE Swimming and FINA when the organizers at Sharjah decided they were unable to stage the swimming event. Ahmed and his team had five days to ready the Fujairah course and facilities. The responsibility of the Fujairah International Marine Club was to provide logistical support, including the provision of jet skis, boats, buoys, pontoons, ambulances and doctors. “None of our staff were out on the water,” Major Ahmed stated. “Oversight of the running of the race, including matters of safety, was in the hands of FINA and UAE Swimming.” All these matters had been clearly stated at the Press Conference prior to the Fujairah swimming races.

Water Temps
When asked whether the water was too hot for the swimming of the race, Ayman Saad, Executive Director of UAE Swimming, said FINA had a minimum temperature (16C) below which the race could not be run but no maximum temperature.

They had tested the heat of the water at 8.30am at which time the temperature was 29C (85F). Twice during the race the temperature was checked and it had risen to 30-31C (86-88F). These temperatures appeared to the organisers to be acceptable for the staging of the swimming race.

Safety Team
Boats and jet skis were available for referees and organizers but the total number of people responsible specifically for safety was nine which included four divers on two boats and three certified life guards. Prior to the race UAE Swimming officials went through all safety procedures with FINA and concluded that all measures were in accordance with the regulations that govern races under the control of FINA.

Cause of Death
The death certificate in Arabic has yet to be translated into English but officials said that an examination of the body of Francis Crippen had revealed nothing wrong with him medically: "He was tiring as he swam around the course and he appeared to have lost control." According to the Public Prosecution of the Ministry of Justice in the UAE the death of Francis Crippen was due to “intense exertion.”

Tribute from Coach
Earlier in the day, Jack Fabian, the coach of Francis Crippen was reluctant to talk extensively with journalists, saying that official statements were the prerogative of USA Swimming.

When asked at what stage of the race Francis told him that he was unwell the coach said that he had not said this. He was on the pontoon with other coaches and supporters who were holding out food and drink for the swimmers and all that Francis said was, “I’m thirsty.” The coach said, “There was nothing unusual about this.”

When asked to describe Francis Crippen, Jack Fabian said, “He was wonderful—an exceedingly generous person.”

Take a Look
Some pictures of the memorial gathering in Fujairah waters and the press conference can be found in this photo album.

Geoff Pound

This article is also posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page.

Image: Some of the swimmers and supporters sharing their grief and showing their love and respect for Francis Crippen.

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