In December 2017, six-year-old Sherlyn Ler, who did not know how to float or swim independently without support, died after a near-drowning at Kallang Basin Swimming Complex.
It all started on 20 December 2017 when the little girl was left to fend on her own for at least four minutes as she swam using a swimming board. Her instructor, Yeo Chwee Chuan, was said to assist her till the pool’s mid-point during her 7pm lesson before allowing her to swim to the edge independently.
However, he moved away and gave his attention to his other students, aged six and eight years old.
It was revealed via CCTV footage that the two lifeguards who were near the teaching pool, one of them was engrossed in his phone while the other spent time arranging chairs.
Due to their negligence, the girl died in hospital on 9 January last year from lack of oxygen and blood flowing to the brain after the near-drowning.
In an inquiry into her death on 2 April (Tuesday), State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said, “The lifeguard should not be distracted by the use of his personal devices or idle chit-chat. He should never leave his post unguarded. Drowning is known to occur quickly and quietly between 20 and 60 seconds.”
She also condemned Mr Yeo’s lesson management, noting his class formation was “poor”.
According to The Straits Times (ST), Mr Yeo’s coaching licence has been suspended by Sport Singapore and Firdaus Rajatmarican and Law Kum Wah, the two lifeguards who left the pool unattended for at least four minutes, were no longer lifeguards.
Upon reading this news, Jose Raymond of Singapore People’s Party took his Facebook to say that civil action should be taken against the swimming instructor and Sport Singapore for this tragedy.
Mr Raymond, formerly vice-president of partnerships of Singapore Swimming Association, said that suspending the instructor’s coaching licenses and disallowing the two individuals to no longer be lifeguards is “scant consolation for the family who lost a child”.
He added, “Sport Singapore should also explain to the public what it has done to improve the work attitude of its lifeguards at all its swimming complex, and should also share if this lackadaisical attitude (one was arranging chairs while the other was on his mobile device) by the two lifeguards on duty on that fateful day is isolated or ingrained.”
Besides that, he also wants Sport Singapore to reveal what it’s doing to “enhance the early detection of near-drowning incidents at all pools” since the computer vision drowning detection system which was announced during the Budget debates will only be made available to 26 public pools, with only 11 pools to have the system by April 2020.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility but there is a responsibility of the public agency in ensuring that its facilities are safe, and with the right people in charge in their various roles,” he wrote.
Besides Mr Raymond, many netizens also blamed the coach and lifeguards for not doing their job well which resulted in the death of an innocent child. Some even condemned the lifeguards for using their phones on the job, and they should be heavily punished, which will serve as a reminder to others.
Over 500 comments were written on ST’s Facebook page.
Others said that a parent should also not rely completely on the coach and lifeguards to take care of their kids. They should also keep an eye on their kids to ensure their safety. A bunch of netizens also suggested that mobile phones should not be allowed to be brought into the swimming pool area.
Winson Teo said that swimming instructors should teach kids to response during emergency situation. He felt that their first few lessons “should focus on self rescue instead of just kick start on swimming lesson”.