SINGAPORE — A  father and his two-year-old daughter fell into a hole in a bridge at Sungei Buloh Watland reserve while leaving due to heavy rain.

A Singaporean Instagram user goes by the name Bucky Hussain, detailed the incident which took place on Monday (23 Jan), when he and his family went to Sungei Buloh Watland reserve for outdoor activities after two days of Chinese New Year feasting.

It was between 11am and 12pm Mr Hussain’s family was forced to leave the nature park hastily due to unexpected torrential rain.

“We weren’t prepared for a massive downpour, ” Mr Hussain wrote, “no umbrellas, and obviously limited shelter in the reserve. We decided to carry the kids and brisk-walk/ run our way out.”

Mr Hussain then encountered a small bridge which was covered in “a good 3 to 5cm of water”. Unfortunately, he fell “into a huge hole” while carrying his two-year-old daughter, Ashley.

“I felt my whole body sink, and I was inhaling water, ” he added that there was no signage, no barriers, and there was no way for him to differentiate the hole from the remaining bridge’s plank as the flooding turned the water dark and muddy.

He instinctively wrapped his arms around his daughter’s neck and spine, and prevented her from floating away.

“But my leg was swept away in the fast-flowing water. I could not feel the bottom, and If I let go we would suck under the bridge.”

“Seconds away from drowning”

Mr Hussain somehow managed to get his body onto the side plank, and fortunately, his daughter was out of the water, to him which mattered the most. About 20 passers-by helped Mr Hussain pick up his daughter.

He described the situation could be dangerous, and they were “seconds away from drowning”. He and the other 20 park visitors stayed back a while to warn other families and young children passing by. He said some of them even tried to patch the hole with some planks they found.

“That hole was literal death trap and if a child, older person or even a less aware adult fell in, we would be reading about their loss in tomorrow’s front page news.”

No staff at the visitor centre

But to Mr Hussain, the “real problem” began when they went to the visitor centre: “there were no staff at the visitor centre. We waited for a long time, and decided this warranted more action.”

Mr Hussain’s wife called 995 and was directed to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). But the SCDF operator’s reply to the call left him in shock:

“Do you need an emergency ambulance? (If not) I think you have the wrong number. This is the emergency ambulance. You should address this to the right agency and- “

Mr Hussain said he hung up the call, “but not before telling the operator that if someone calls needing an ambulance or worse for this same issue I warned him about, he will regret his response.”

Mr Hussain criticised SCDF for unacceptable “Sorry wrong agency” response

He further explained that his wife did call the National Parks Board (NParks) number later but waited too long. They went to another visitor centre at the newer extension, but the person — after confirming the issue was not at Eagle Point — casually told Mr Hussain that they would go there to take a look.

Mr Hussain criticised that NParks needs an emergency hotline and increase their manpower, especially during public holidays where demand is bound to be high.

To SCDF, he said the agency needs to rethink its protocols, “Assuming some day don’t want to pass the buck and want to actually perform their duty of Civil Defence, there has to be a number we can dial for preventable action. “Sorry wrong agency” is unacceptable for a Civil Defence force.”

NParks fixed the hole on the bridge

In his recent comment on the post, Mr Hussain updated that a friend at NParks told him the hole where he and his daughter fell in has been fixed, and he thanked NParks for the swift action.

Meanwhile, SCDF reached out to him and apologised for how the operator handled the incident.

According to CNA, NParks said it was aware of the incident, and the area “was cordoned off following the incident, and the gap has been closed off after the water receded.”

NParks said the incident had taken place at a crossing of a sluice gate.

“Waters had overflowed during the peak of the spring tide coupled with heavy rain that dislodged the floor panels, exposing a gap,” said NParks group director of conservation Lim Liang Jim.

NParks is currently monitoring the water levels in the reserve closely and will undertake temporary closure to sections that may be subject to intermittent flooding.

SCDF said will review its 995 call-taking protocols

SCDF responded to the incident in a statement on Wednesday, saying it had conducted a review and assessed that its call taker “could have done better in managing this case by reassuring the caller that the SCDF would immediately follow up on the issue with the appropriate agency”.

“SCDF has since contacted the caller and expressed our regret in how the matter was handled. The caller appreciated SCDF’s follow-up,” the statement said.

“Moving forward, SCDF will review its 995 call-taking protocols in handling such reports by members of the public and improve from it.”

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