Six people were rescued on Monday morning (31 May) after their kayaks capsized near a floating sea barrier off Sentosa Cove.
According to ST’s report, the tour group numbered seven kayakers and one guide in four double kayaks, with all equipped with personal floatation devices (PFD).
It was noted that the tour group were on a guided Southern Islands kayaking tour with eco-adventure travel company Kayakasia, when an inflatable double kayak capsized at around 8.05am.
Kayakers on another double kayak attempted to help the fallen duo but their kayak ended up overturned.
A married couple, Chen Geng Xin, 41, and her husband Jason Tan, 48, tried to help the fallen kayakers but their kayak was capsized too.
“It was almost impossible for me to stay afloat. Every time I clung on to the barrier, I got cut by barnacles and the current kept dragging me under,” Madam Chen, who has been kayaking recreationally for 20 years, told ST.
The self-employed enrichment provider shouted for help as she and her husband drifted along the barrier.
The kayak guides eventually managed to pick the kayakers up and help them back onto their kayaks. ST noted that the group was sent to One Degree 15 Marina on a Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) boat.
Singapore Marine Guide posted a video of the incident on Facebook the same day, which was sent by a netizen, showing a person shouting for help as she drifted in the water near a floating capsized kayak.
“Help is here but we don’t [know] where they’re. The current is very strong,” the netizen named Frieda Ruiz wrote in the video.
Responding to media queries, the Singapore Civil Defence Force told ST that it received a call for help at around 8.15am and one person was sent to the Singapore General Hospital.
Another “near death” incident reported
Just three days before the incident (28 May), a Facebook user named Yee Hoo Thim described how he encountered a “near death experience” when he was nearly pulled by the strong current when swimming near Sentosa’s Palawan Beach along a floating barrier.
“I was swimming from pahlawan island heading towards Shangrila or Siloso beach, but as I swam my pace was faster, n I didn’t realised I was nearer n nearer to the blue buoys.
“Suddenly my arm hit the blue buoy, I felt like a magnet being sucked to the other side(outer sea) n I tried swimming away but couldn’t for a few attempts,” he wrote on Facebook.
Panicking, Mr Yee clung on to the stainless chain as the current kept pushing out beyond the blue buoys.
He then tried to go along the blue buoys, hoping to the other buoys with less current.
“I could not hold on to the blue buoys, so quickly I hold on to the next chain that links the buoys. Then I reached a yellow metal pyramid thing my hand could hold on to it, current extra strong.”
“Did a few attempts, then the last one I sprinted, kicked n swam like Michael phelps towards the shore, 3meters, 6m, 10m, I kept swimming as hard n fast as I could, then finally the current is less. I was breathless, but I kept swimming towards shore,” he added.
Netizens urged authorities to look into the safety of Sentosa’s beaches
Over on social media, many netizens recalled past incidents that took place at Sentosa’s beaches, urging the authorities and beach operators to look into the safety of the beaches.
Some netizens commenting on ST’s Facebook post also noted that the operators should place a sign on the barriers to warn swimmers, or kayakers, about the strong undercurrent.
One Facebook user questioned: “Why the authorities don’t cordon off that area for swimming or any form of water sports activities to prevent further mishaps?”
Given the tightened COVID-19 measures in Singapore, some netizens questioned why the tour group was allowed to have seven pax of people in the first place.
Coastal experts warned the dangers in Sentosa’s beaches
Back in February 2006, ST interviewed two coastal experts who warned about the dangers in Sentosa’s beaches that can trap “weak or unsuspecting swimmers”. This report is accessible on Wild Singapore’s website.
One of the experts, Associate Professor Tan Soon Keat – who was commissioned to study Sentosa’s beaches in 1988 – told ST that a steep drop off the beach can be dangerous to new or weak swimmers.
“Coral reefs have steep sides. Imagine sand being poured on top of the coral table to form a beach. At one end is the shore, and it ends steeply in what we call ‘the ledge’ on the other. It’s like an unexpected drop-off that will catch new or weak swimmers off guard,” he said.
ST also mentioned the death of 17-year-old Steven Sim, who drowned while swimming off Palawan Beach, indicating how it reignited the debate over the safety of Sentosa’s beaches sparked in 2005 by the deaths of five people off Siloso Beach.
“In December, after recording a verdict of misadventure on the September death of 17-year-old Steven Sim, the state coroner noted that Sentosa had seen significantly more drownings and urged beach operators to step up safety measures.
“While statistics do not seem to support this – in 2004, only two of the 46 drownings in Singapore occurred at Sentosa – there are significant concerns,” it stated.
Another coastal expert who was interviewed by ST at the time had also warned that the man-made islets built in 1997 to protect Sentosa’s beaches can cause problems.
“The man-made offshore islets help to stabilise the beach, but it is also possible that they act as a physical obstruction to the main water flow from the sea, which could create eddies,” said the expert who was kept anonymous by ST.