UAE Para athlete Abdullah Hayayei has died after being injured during a practice session in London.
The 36-year-old, a thrower in the F34 class, was training at Newham Leisure Centre for the World Para-athletics Championships in London when a discus cage fell on him on Tuesday afternoon.
Majid Al Usaimi, the vice president of the UAE Disabled Sports Federation, told Dubai Sports TV “the metal discus cage fell on his head.”
Speaking in Arabic, Al Usaimi said: “We are overcome by grief, all of the UAE delegation here in London, and are truly shocked by this news, but it is God’s will.”
Eyewitness Rumbi Sambana, 34, told the Evening Standard she heard a loud cracking noise and then saw Hayayei on the ground with the cage on top him.
She said: “These people, I would describe them as superhuman heroes, were lifting the structure above him so that paramedics could treat him.
“That poor man, one minute he was doing the discus and then he is crushed. All the other athletes were looking on in despair. How can this have happened?”
Hayayei was entered in the shot put, discus and javelin throw events in the F34 class.
In a statement, the IPC said “emergency services were called shortly after 17:00 to reports of a seriously injured man. At 17:20 the athlete was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Police, London Ambulance Service and London’s Air Ambulance attended the scene at the Newham Leisure Centre.
The IPC said the athlete’s family in the UAE had been informed of his death.
Hayayei made his Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, finishing sixth in the javelin and seventh in shot put in the F34, a category for seated throws for athletes with impairments typical of conditions such as cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injury.
“We are all truly devastated by this tragic news and the passing of Abdullah,” IPC President Philip Craven said in a statement. “The thoughts, prayers and condolences of the whole Paralympic Movement are with Abdullah’s family, friends and teammates as well as the whole of the National Paralympic Committee of the UAE. We are all in state of shock at this terrible tragedy.”
The World Para Athletics Championships start this week. Local organisers plan to hold a moment of silence in honour of Hayayei during the opening ceremony on Friday at London Stadium.