Tributes paid to British family who died in Costa del Sol pool tragedy

Philip Whiteside, international news reporter

Tributes have been paid to the father and two children who died in a pool accident on the Costa del Sol on Christmas Eve.

Gabriel Diya, 52, and his children Praise Emmanuel, 16, and Comfort, nine, were found unresponsive in the pool at Club La Costa World in Fuengirola.

It comes as Spanish media are saying a member of the family has told police that none of the three knew how to swim.

Mr Diya's Facebook account describes him as a manager of Open Heavens London, a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, based in Charlton.

A statement posted on the Facebook page of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Central Office said: "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...

"Pastor Gabriel Diya, who was also the Parish Pastor of Open Heavens, Charlton in London was aged 52. He is survived by his wife Assistant Pastor Olubunmi Diya and their daughter.

"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."

Hundreds of people have posted comments expressing their condolences.

One, Temitope J Albert-Fowora Ogunfowora, said: "My twin brother this is 2 sudden I spoke to you on 21st Dec. Not knowing that will be the last time we would talk together.

"Good Night Pst. GOD, my Praise man and my beloved Comfotability. RIP."

Mr Diya is listed in the introduction to his own Facebook page as a "Pioneer, Life coach, Entrepreneur, Student, Property Manager, Businessman & PAL Leader".

It also says he is a property manager at Flobis Properties Limited, a co-ordinator at Christian Innovations aka Christiannovations and a co-founder of Missio Africanus.

It is understood that the father and daughter are both British, while the son is American.

The incident occurred after the girl got into difficulties in the water and her brother and father tried to rescue her, it has been reported.

Spanish private news agency Europa Press and other media outlets said a family member testified before Civil Guard police that the three were unable to swim.

No one at the Civil Guard was available to comment on the report when contacted by the AP news agency.

Post-mortem results released by police on Boxing Day found all three died by drowning and Spanish newspaper El País said the examiner found that none of the three had bruises or signs of intoxication.

Civil Guard union spokesman officer Paco González told AP the pool was around 2m (6.5ft) deep in some parts.

Local reports said Spanish police had been investigating the pool pump for a possible failure but hotel operator CLC World Resorts and Hotels said inquiries have found "no concerns relating to the pool in question" and the incident appeared to be a "tragic accident".

The children's mother was one of the people who raised the alarm.

A witness said Mr Diya's wife prayed as emergency life-saving treatment was carried out, 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."

Another daughter was reportedly on the holiday but was not hurt.

Local radio host Giles Brown told Sky News the children's mother is receiving counselling from Spanish police.

He said the family were booked into the resort on 21 December and were due to fly back out on 28 December.

Neighbours of the family in Charlton reacted with sadness on Boxing Day.

One, 59-year-old Lara Akins, said: "I still can't comprehend it, it's still shocking."

She said they were "very religious, very friendly, very humble", and added: "They are so nice, that is why everybody is shocked."

She said she was looking after Christmas presents that had been dropped off by friends while the family were away.

"They know we are very friendly with each other," she added.

Holiday operator CLC World Resorts and Hotels said: "Club La Costa World resort continues to co-operate fully with the authorities investigating this appalling tragedy.

"We have followed their directions at all times. Naturally, we will continue to offer every assistance and comply fully and transparently with any requests made by them.

"At the same time, we are doing everything possible to provide care and support to bereaved family members and to all our other guests.

"Out of respect for the family, we have no further comment at this stage on various media speculation."

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are offering assistance to a British woman following an incident in Spain."