Onlookers at accident site ‘may be punished’

Muawia E. Ibrahim
Filed on September 19, 2004

ABU DHABI Curious onlookers at accidents scenes might be punished, as a new legislation is likely to be enacted.

The legislation, proposed by the General Directorate of Civil Defence, is aimed at facilitating the work of fire brigades and investigation teams at accidents sites.

According to Major Jassim Abdulla, Director of Operations Department at the Directorate, gathering or crowds of curious onlookers at accidents scenes has become a nuisance and is considered disrespect to the state and its institutions.

Instead of focusing on carrying out their duty, firefighters, rescue workers and investigators are busy pushing back onlookers milling around the yellow tape.

It is a very common scene to see hundreds of onlookers watching investigators and talking about what they had seen.

"Unfortunately big crowds mill around a road or fire accident scene hindering the work of the rescue teams and obstructing access to the accident scene," Major Abdulla stated.

He said the motive of many people gathering around the scene might be to provide assistance and help in rescuing accident victims but these people should at least be knowing the rules and techniques of rescue.

"It is time that we should be aware of the disadvantages of gathering around an accident scene. We should know our responsibility and duty. The presence of the crowds confuse rescue teams who lose control and temper, and this affects the rescue operation," he noted.

Analysing the phenomenon, he said from a psychological point of view, it is not unusual that people are curious and want to know what is going on.

"It's natural that people are curious and want to know what is going on especially when it is a road or fire accident. It's kind of excitement and many have the habit of watching and telling others what they had seen. While some are just curious, by nature, to know things, some people are hyper-curious and their case turns into a physiological one as they do not get convinced without knowing all details of the accident."

The official said that in addition to obstructing rescue teams work and blocking access to accidents scenes, crowd gathering puts lives of onlookers, rescue workers as well as the victims at risk. He called on the authorities to enact a legislation to punish onlookers especially those who obstruct rescue workers deliberately.

He suggested that "permanent" attendants of accidents, who are able to help in rescue operations, should be appointed as volunteers after providing them proper training.

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