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August 17, 2018
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Eyewitnesses allege staff at Czech lake did not help Vietnamese mothers look for their children, who drowned

6.8.2018 9:50
About 150 people, a large part of them Vietnamese, assembled on 5 August 2018 to mourn the two Vietnamese boys who drowned at Lake Lhota near Prague on 2 August 2018. (PHOTO:  Patrik Banga)
About 150 people, a large part of them Vietnamese, assembled on 5 August 2018 to mourn the two Vietnamese boys who drowned at Lake Lhota near Prague on 2 August 2018. (PHOTO: Patrik Banga)

Tragedy struck Lake Lhota near Prague in the Czech Republic last Thursday when two seven-year-old boys were lost - after two hours of searching they were found, but it was too late. Both boys had drowned.

Eyewitnesses to the tragedy are drawing attention to what they allege was an absolute lack of interest on the part of the employees of the facility and their failure to address the situation, alleging that staff were disrespectful to the mothers and ignored them because they are foreigners. The drowned boys and their mother are of Vietnamese nationality.

"They did their best to call for help but because they were Vietnamese nobody wanted to speak with them, they immediately began talking to them using the familiar form of address and giving them orders," two eyewitnesses told the tabloid news server According to the eyewitnesses, one of the mothers turned away from watching the children for a moment and when she turned back, all she could see on the surface of the water were the inflatable inner tubes the children had been using.

Both women immediately began to look for their children and to call for help. "The parents were begging for help long before they got any," a witness named Kristýna told Blesk.

"Nobody paid any attention to them because they were foreigners," Kristýna said. "One mother was running along the beach asking for help and the retirees sitting in the so-called office there were just laughing at them."

"The first announcement that two seven-year-old boys had been lost did not go out over the loudspeakers until a long time afterward," Kristýna said. Other eyewitnesses said that by the time the employees allowed the entire matter to be announced over the loudspeaker, important information was not announced that could have aided those present with joining in the search for the boys.

"They did not even mention that they were Vietnamese boys until much later, when they finally asked others to help search for them," the eyewitnesses told The FTV Prima television station interviewed an eyewitness named Eva, who said: "Because the announcement was being repeated without result, I went to the office and told the lady who was broadcasting it that if she hadn't gotten a result she should ask all the visitors to come out of the water with their children so it would possible to assess where children separated from their parents might be."

"She refused to do that, she said she wouldn't do it and she wouldn't cause chaos there for no good reason. She said she wouldn't bother the other visitors with it," Eva told FTV Prima.

The desperate mothers collapsed as a result of the situation. Their fellow visitors to the facility were the only ones to respond to them.

According to eyewitnesses the facility staff did not begin offering any care to the women until just before the police arrived. They offered them water and other things needed to stabilize them only after police arrived.

The search took place both in the lake and on land because it was not clear whether the children might be on the shore or in the water. The disappearance had been reported by the boys' mothers to the emergency services.

According to police spokesperson Lucie Nováková the initial search lasted roughly an hour. "The causes and circumstances of this incident are being investigated," the spokesperson said.

Yesterday about 150 people, a large part of whom were Vietnamese, assembled at Lake Lhota to mourn the two drowned Vietnamese boys. Those attending laid candles and flowers around a wooden cross by the hiking trails in the forest.

An accordion was played, some people sang quietly, and according to Vietnamese custom they threw fistfuls of rice on the sacred site. Firefighters were on hand to supervise the candle-lighting.

"We also want to dedicate this memorial service to the subject of indifference," an unidentified speaker told those assembled. The man said he believes it is important to overcome indifference in society and not to keep silent when injustice happens.

"We are all bereaved today," Evangelical theologian Petr Sláma told those assembled. Bohdan Bláhovec, who convened and organized the event through Facebook, told journalists that the aim was to make a gesture that would be seen by the rest of society and that would draw attention to how far human indifference can sometimes lead.

"Our intention is not to look for people to blame. We do not want to censure anybody here," Bláhovec emphasized.

"We are friends and members of the Vietnamese community and when we learned this event was being held, we came," one of the Vietnamese women present told the media. "I was very moved that this event was organized by Czech people."

The circumstances of Thursday's drownings are being investigated by police. The director of the facility, Robert Nedvěd, told the iDNES news server that he believes the employees did all they could to rescue the children.

The Czech-Vietnamese Society is asking that the incident be investigated. The dispatchers of emergency response services received the information about the two lost seven-year-old boys at 14:44.

Emergency responders' first hour of searching for the boys was unsuccessful. They then returned to their base to prepare the next phase of their response.

At 16:51 they were called back to the lake and the bodies of the boys were eventually found. Both canine units and divers were deployed during the search.

Nedvěd alleged to that the mothers did not show the facility staff where their children had been last and did not say they were probably in the water, which was why the staff looked for them just in the immediate surroundings, not the water. Emergency responders also deployed a helicopter with thermovision that was recalled after an hour.

ČTK, vhl, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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