26/01/2017 11:48 GMT

African Refugee, Pateh Sabally, Drowns In Venice Canal As Tourists Film And Laugh

The drowned man was Pateh Sabally, a 22-year-old refugee from Gambia.

An African man drowned in Venice’s Grand Canal as onlookers abused him and filmed his struggle on their mobile phone, in an incident now being investigated by Italian authorities.

In photos that have since emerged, Pateh Sabally, a 22-year-old refugee from Gambia, can be seen flailing in the middle of the canal on Sunday as on-lookers watch on. 

Reuters reported that no-one jumped in to help Sabally, and that bystanders had been accused of laughing and taunting him.

A man from Gambia drowned in Venice's Grand Canal as tourists filmed the incident

A video of the incident appears to pick up some bystanders yelling at Sabally, with one person heard saying: “He is stupid. He wants to die.”

Another shouted: “Go on, go back home,” The Times reported.

At least three life rings were thrown into the water near Sabally, but he did not appear to reach for them, raising speculation that he wanted to take his own life.

Dino Basso, local head of the Italian association of lifeguards, said: “I don’t want to blame anyone but maybe something more could have been done to save him.”

According to local media reports, Sabally had sailed from Africa to Italy two years ago.

More than 181,000 migrants arrived in Italy by boat last year, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa. This was an increase by almost 18% compared with 2015.

Italian media said Sabally had residency papers for Italy.