An 18-month-old boy was left fighting for his life after his five-year-old sister shot him in the head with an air gun their father was using for target practice.
The family were in the back garden of their Birmingham home when the father, Bakht Zaman, put down the gun and turned his back for a second to answer his mobile phone.
His daughter, Asna Almas, grabbed the gun and levelled it at her brother, Rashid Rullah. The weapon went off and the pellet hit the boy in the back of the head.
Mr Zaman, a 29-year-old handyman, had just reloaded the air gun in preparation for his next shot when the phone rang, said the children's grandfather, Bakht Rammand.
The shooting, which happened at 6.40pm on Sunday, appeared to have been a "tragic accident involving young children", said Detective Inspector Simon Vowles, of West Midlands Police. Paramedics called to the family home in the city's Washwood Heath area found the child with a "very serious head injury" from an air-gun pellet, the West Midlands Ambulance Service confirmed.
"Crews immediately started treating the child and very quickly took him to Birmingham Children's Hospital. Two additional paramedics travelled with the ambulance crew to provide additional assistance." Shortly after arrival he was described as "critical but stable," she said.
Mr Rammand, 48, said Rashid was still unconscious last night and seriously ill in hospital, where doctors would operate on him when he came round.
"Everybody's in shock. There are no words to describe it really. The whole road loves them," Mr Rammand said. "The children usually come down here ... and spend all day with us. At 4pm they go home. When they went home yesterday they were playing with their dad in the garden.
"He was target-practising with the gun and then somebody rang his mobile. The gun was ready to fire and he answered the phone.
"Rashid's sister is really active and she got hold of the gun and pointed it at her brother. He was on the high ground and she was on the low ground. It hit him right in the middle of the back of his head."
The boy's mother, Fazilat Zaman, 25, had spent the night at her son's bedside, he added. The family come from north-west Pakistan.
A police spokesman said: "An 18-month-old boy is in a critical condition in hospital with a serious head injury after what appears to be a tragic accident. The toddler was playing with other young children in the garden of his home in the Washwood Heath area when he sustained a pellet wound to the back of the head from an air weapon."
Liam Byrne, the Labour MP for the Hodge Hill constituency, which includes Washwood Heath, said: "As a parent of three youngsters I know that beyond doubt, this is every parent's worst nightmare ... everyone's prayers and thoughts should be with little Rashid and his family. They will be going through absolute hell.
"Thankfully, Birmingham Children's Hospital is among the best of its kind in the world. I've had leaders at the very top of the NHS tell me that if their child fell ill, there is nowhere they would rather have them looked after than Birmingham Children's.
"Their staff and [the] care will be of huge comfort to the family at this incredibly anxious time."