Syrian who died trying to save drowning friend ‘came to UK for better life’

The 31-year-old father-of-five had been hoping his wife and children could have joined him in Britain soon, his cousin said.

Emergency services at the scene in Cookham
Emergency services at the scene in Cookham

A Syrian refugee who died while trying to help save a friend from drowning had come to the UK to try to make a better life for his family, a relative said.

Eyad Al Ryabi, a father-of-five, went into a stretch of water connected to the River Thames in Berkshire after a companion got into difficulty on Tuesday evening.

The 31-year-old, who had been living in Uxbridge, west London, had been with a group of friends at Lulle Brook in Cookham, Berkshire, for a day out in the good weather, his cousin told the PA news agency.

A body was recovered on Wednesday afternoon.

A search was launched after a man went missing in the water in Cookham on Tuesday (Levi Genes@Levi_Genes/PA)
A search was launched after a man went missing in the water in Cookham on Tuesday (Levi Genes@Levi_Genes/PA)

The friend he had been trying to help was taken to hospital in a serious condition, Thames Valley Police said.

Khald Al Riabi said his cousin, from near Daraa in the south-west of Syria, had come to the UK towards the end of last year and hoped that his wife and children could have joined him soon.

Mr Al Riabi, who lives in Acton and works as a hairdresser, said the decision to leave his family back in his homeland was “very difficult” for his cousin but he wanted them to have the opportunity of a better life in Britain.

He told PA: “That’s why he came here. He came here to save his life and his family’s life. He was looking for an education for his children.

“He was a very good father. He looked after his family.”

He said Mr Al Ryabi’s wife was due to have an appointment for a visa early next month.

Formal identification of the body has not yet taken place, police said on Wednesday evening.

The death is being treated as unexplained and not suspicious and the man’s next of kin have been informed, the force added.

Superintendent Colin Hudson, LPA commander for Windsor and Maidenhead, said: “I am very sorry to have to bring this sad news. Our thoughts are with both men’s families during this very upsetting time.”

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