Boy's drowning a 'tragic misadventure'
The National Parks Board will be increasing the number of life buoy stations at East Coast Park, with a view to reducing the distance between deployable life buoys on-site.
State Coroner Marvin Bay said this on Tuesday (Sept 26) following an inquest into the death of a 12-year-boy who drowned in the sea off East Coast Park on May 8 during a day out with his friends after exams.
In finding Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian's death a "tragic misadventure", he said the incident also served as a grim reminder to beachgoers to never underestimate the potential for harm when entering open water.
Suhaimi's death was the 11th drowning of a child aged 12 and under since January 2014, said the coroner.
He added that a child should not swim or engage in water-play alone without adult supervision, and even in a group, there should always be designated adult caregivers to provide close and constant supervision.
People intending to swim in open water should also do so in lifeguard-monitored areas, he said.
"All beachgoers should learn water safety and water-survival skills, maintain a consistent awareness of their surroundings, their friends and themselves in order to have a safe day in the water."
At the inquest, the court heard that there was a "No Swimming" sign near where Suhaimi, who had no prior instruction in swimming, and his friends had gone for a dip. There was also a life buoy, with instructional signage on water safety and proper use of the equipment, nearby.
Suhaimi and seven other boys were at East Coast Park's Xtreme SkatePark after their exams that day. Seven of them decided to go for a dip as it was a hot day. Only one stayed out of the water.
The water level was at the boys' chests when they got in, but they soon found themselves in water reaching up to their necks.
They panicked and started to make for shore while shouting for help.
Housewife Silvia Claudia Hajas, a 47-year-old Australian living here on a dependant's pass, was with her daughter when she heard the boys' cries for help. She saw them struggling and waving their hands.
Three of them were able to swim back to shore, but Suhaimi and three others continued to struggle in the water.
After pulling two of the boys out of the water, Ms Hajas shouted for help and Mr Tan Kian Choon, who was strolling nearby, grabbed a life buoy. He also entered the water to help Ms Hajas.
Suhaimi's friend, who was floating near him, tried to hold on to his hand to prevent him from drifting away, but to no avail.
The boy was saved but Suhaimi disappeared and was last seen more than 50m away from the shore.
About three hours later, Singapore Civil Defence Force officers found his body floating by a water breaker. Resuscitation was carried out but he was pronounced dead.