SINGAPORE: A woman who went missing off Sentosa on Sunday morning (Oct 22) was trying to help a fellow kayaker when she capsized and was “swept under” by currents, a friend who helped in the search operation told CNA.
Mr Sim Cher Huey, founder of Kayakasia, was one of those in the community who helped in the search.
He told CNA that two kayakers, a man and a woman, capsized between 9.30am and 10am on Sunday off the southern tip of Sentosa, near a line of blue floating security barriers.
“It happened at this particularly tricky place where the currents, the moving water, meet these stationary barriers,” he said.
The male kayaker had capsized and the female kayaker went to help, but also capsized. “Both were swept under by currents,” he said.
They were part of a group of three who had launched from Sentosa with their own sea kayaks towards the Southern Islands. A fourth sea kayaker happened to meet them on the waters and joined, he said.
After the two kayakers were swept under, their companions called the Singapore Police Coast Guard for assistance.
The male kayaker was rescued by a passing boat, but the woman remains missing.
Mr Alvin Ng, who had been heading to a fishing spot that morning, told CNA that his friend had spotted a capsized kayak and shouted for the captain of their boat to stop.
This was “far away” from the blue floating barriers, he added.
The male kayaker, who was holding onto his kayak, appeared “very tired and confused”.
After the boat picked him up, Mr Ng and his friend saw another capsized kayak about 200m to 300m away, and asked the boat captain to move towards it.
They picked up both kayaks but did not find the female kayaker.
“We saw her belongings floating there. One floating object seemed to be her PFD (personal flotation device),” said Mr Ng, a global commodity manager. They then sent the rescued man and kayaks to One15 Marina in Sentosa Cove.
“DO NOT DO IT ALONE”
Water sport enthusiasts and anglers CNA spoke to said that the conditions in that area can be challenging, and this is further complicated by the floating security barrier.
Mr Aaron Ang, CEO of kayak fishing tour company Fever.sg, said that the waters just outside of Tanjong Beach to Siloso Beach are relatively safe and the currents there are manageable for beginners.
But where the kayaks capsized, off Sentosa Cove, are where the fastest currents would be and “should only be attempted with professional guides or with a paddle club”.
“However, the real danger is not the current but the stationary floating blue barriers that were installed a couple of years back,” said Mr Ng, who kayaks there twice a week.
He explained that without the barrier, the chance of being capsized by the current is relatively low.
“With the blue barriers installed, kayakers that are unfamiliar with the area can easily be pinned to the barriers. When that happens, there’s almost a 100 per cent chance of capsizing,” he said.
“In the confusion of it all, the kayaker and kayak will be separated. Leaving the kayaker nothing to hold on to in the strong currents.”
Most interviewees told CNA this is not the first time kayaks have capsized there.
Mr Ang estimates it happens “at least an average of once every two months, probably more”. Interviewees also described how the capsized kayaker can get “swept” or “sucked” under the blue drums of the barrier.
Mr Ang advised kayakers who want to venture out to the Southern Islands from Sentosa to go with an experienced tour operator or with a paddle community from a beach club, who understand the conditions of the water there.
“It’s tricky and dangerous to just wing it. Do not do it alone!” he warned.
“If you are a beginner, it is safe to rent a kayak and kayak along Tanjong and Siloso Beach, but do not go beyond Tanjong Beach towards Sentosa Cove side.”
Mr Ng hopes that more people can be aware of water safety and that the authorities can look at measures to improve safety there.
“What I feel is (there are) not enough rules and regulations to cover this area and (not enough) safety precautions. If the Lazarus Island sea sport centre is up, (we) might have more cases,” he said.
“Even if they have taken a kayak course, I am sure they don’t really teach them to read currents. Now there is no law in place and anyone can just kayak out.”