Bolton father killed in Mecca crane crash receives tributes
Tributes have been paid to a Bolton father-of-four who was killed in the Saudi crane crash hours after arriving in the city ahead of his first pilgrimage to Mecca.
Qasim Akram was killed when the construction crane crashed into the Grand Mosque in the Saudi city of Mecca on Friday ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
He had only just arrived in the country on Friday morning along with his parents when the tragedy occurred.
Mr Akram, who was believed to be 32, and a private hire driver, had been in the Grand Mosque with his parents some 50 yards ahead of them when the crane struck the mosque which is Islam's holiest site.
His parents, Mr and Mrs Mohammad Akram, are believed to have escaped without injury.
After the incident they lost contact with their son.
Friend and local councillor for the Halliwell ward in Bolton, Councillor Akhtar Zaman said he had seen Mr Akram only days before his death.
He said: "I saw him on Wednesday and he was really looking forward to it, smiling and asking me for tips because I went last year.
"He was on hajj pilgrimage to Mecca with his parents, Mr and Mrs Mohammad Akram. They were on pilgrimage and that's when tragedy struck. He arrived on Friday morning. He was in the Grand Mosque with his family and that's when the crane struck.
"They (him and parents) were in the same vicinity, the same area but he was maybe 50 yards ahead of his parents and that's when the accident happened. They lost contact with him and they couldn't find him. They found out last night and the authorities identified him."
He added that he had been on the "once in a lifetime" pilgrimage for around three to four weeks and had been an active member at the Masjid Al Aqsa mosque in Gilnow Road, Halliwell, where his father was secretary.
Councillor Zaman added: "I knew Qasim personally, he was the most pleasant, hard-working, smiling and helpful young man you could ever meet.
"(He's from) quite a big family and they are devastated to the core. He is married and has four kids. I think the youngest may be one-and-a half or two years-old. People are praying at the mosques.
"I don't know how to describe this loss. He was a member of the mosque and very active. He was the son of one of the founding members. He helped with the affairs of the mosque and the running of the mosque. His father was the secretary. He was very close to his family.
"It is a huge loss to the family and a big loss for the wider community."
On the Masjid Al Aqsa mosque's Facebook page a picture of Mr Akram was shared with the message: "We share not only the picture but also the pain and grief of his departure from this world to the eternal abode of bliss."
Bolton MP Yasmin Qureshi tweeted: "Saddened to hear that a young man from #Bolton was amongst those killed in tragic Saudi crane collapse. Thoughts and prayers w/ the family."