A British toddler who survived a car crash in Saudi Arabia was taken to a morgue in a body bag because rescuers wrongly assumed he had died.
Mohamed Elisa Danial Hayat, who has since turned two, was the only member of three generations of his family to survive, after the taxi they were travelling in on a pilgrimage to Mecca hit a bridge and flipped over in February of this year.
The taxi driver, who also died, is believed to have caused the accident by driving too fast and falling asleep at the wheel. He was also uninsured at the time of the accident.
Emergency services arriving at the scene wrongly assumed everyone involved in the accident had died and set about recovering the bodies, apparently without checking for any signs of life.
It was only when the bodies were being put into temporary storage units at a hospital that Eisa moved and workers realised he was still alive.
Despite being unconscious when emergency services arrived, Eisa had only suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and broken ribs in the accident that killed all of his close relatives. It is believed he only survived the crash because his grandfather, Shaukat Hayat, was clutching him tightly at the moment of impact.
Speaking to Wales Online, Shaukat’s brother, Shazada Hayat, said: “They thought 'oh, the little baby was dead, no-one could've survived that’. He ended up in the mortuary. As they were putting him into storage he moved around.”
As well as Eisa’s 56-year-old grandfather, his mother Bilques, 30, father Mohammed, 33, grandmother Abida, 47 and aunt Saira, 29, were also killed in the crash. Bilques Hayat was heavily pregnant at the time of the accident and was due to give birth to Eisa’s sibling in eight weeks.
The family from Newport, south Wales, had been in Saudi Arabia as part of the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca by Muslims at any time of the year, because Saira Zenub was due to get married that weekend. Eisa reportedly barely ate in the weeks after the accident, but has now made a full recovery.
As a result of the crash, members of the Hayats’ extended family have launched a campaign to ensure only licenced and insured drivers can operate in Saudi Arabia.
Shaukat Hayat said: “By us lobbying or asking for these changes, we might not be able to save hundreds and hundreds of lives, but if we could save one life, then it's a step in the right direction.”
He added: “Our concern is wellbeing. These roads must be made safe, not only for the Saudis living there but those pilgrims going there. People come there from all over the world. We can't just stay silent and do nothing about it.”
The five members of Eisa’ family who died in the crash were all buried at Jannat Al-Baqi - a huge cemetery in Medina, close to the Masjid al-Nabawi mosque.
The mosque, one of the largest in the world, is said to have been built on the site of the Prophet Mohamed’s house, and the cemetery is believed to be where he, and many other important early Islamic leaders, were buried. As a result the area is considered hugely significant, making it Islam’s second holiest site, behind the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca.
Speaking of the Hayat family’s burial there, Shaukat Hayat said: “Not everyone gets buried next to the prophet. For a Muslim you could not get a higher honour. That is the part of it that keeps all the family going”.