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Pastor who drowned alongside children in hotel pool hailed as ‘devoted father’

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The pastor who drowned alongside two of his children during a family holiday in the Costa del Sol has been remembered as a “loving husband and devoted father” by members of his church.

Gabriel Diya, 52, his daughter Comfort Diya, nine, and son Praise-Emmanuel Diya, 16, died on Christmas Eve at the Club La Costa World in Fuengirola, Spain.

Pastor Agu Irukwu, of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, also described Mr Diya as “humble, friendly and a committed pastor and Christian leader” to his congregation in Charlton, south-east London.

Friend and fellow pastor Lemmy Gbenga Ayodele added: “Good night my very good friend, Pst Diya. When you said ‘bye and seeing you later’ a few days ago I didn’t know you meant eternity. Difficult to comprehend and still like a dream that you went with two of your children.”

Comfort, meanwhile, was remembered as “the most wonderfully kind, thoughtful, caring pupil who was a role model for all her peers” in a statement by Jo Marchant, executive headteacher at Windrush Charlton primary school in south-east London which the youngster attended.

She said Comfort would be “greatly missed by the whole school community, adults and children alike”.

Ms Marchant said the “extremely distressing news” of the deaths had “devastated” everyone at the school, and support would be provided for any pupil or parent who needs it.

The tributes came as the children’s “utterly heartbroken” mother Olubunmi Diya said she believed “something was wrong with the pool that must have made swimming difficult for them at that point in time”.

Hotel operator CLC World Resorts and Hotels has said “diligent and exhaustive” police investigations confirmed the pool was working “normally” and there was “no malfunction of any kind” at the time of the tragedy.

But in a statement, Mrs Diya said her husband and children, who were reportedly on holiday with another daughter who was not injured, were able to swim, contrary to earlier media reports.

She said: “The whole family, all five of us, went to the pool together and were all present when the incident occurred. The children were not left unattended.

“We followed the instructions displayed by the poolside at all times.

“The children went into the pool using the steps but found themselves dragged into the middle, which was deeper and called for help when they could not get out.

“My daughter did not fall into the water.

“My husband went in via the steps trying to help the two struggling while I ran to the nearby apartments shouting for help to assist my husband.

“By the time assistance came, the three of them were under the water.”

According to a statement issued by the Guardia Civil in Spain, its investigation points to the incident being an accident caused by the victims’ lack of swimming expertise when in the deep zone of the pool.

It said inspections of the pool’s systems had found no irregularities.

The statement also said the youngest child’s swimming hat was retrieved from the pool.

Mrs Diya added in her statement: “Our family are utterly heartbroken by the events last Tuesday, but we are comforted and strengthened by our strong faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

“We are deeply shocked, saddened and struggling to come to terms with their passing.

“They all brought a joy and love to the world and to everyone that crossed their path.

“We love them all dearly, will always remember them in our hearts and miss them greatly.”

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