ACS(I) student's death: Outdoor adventure education group to tighten guidelines after Safra Yishun accident

Safra Yishun (SCREENSHOT: Google Maps)
Safra Yishun (SCREENSHOT: Google Maps)

By Chia Han Keong and Vernon Lee

SINGAPORE — An outdoor adventure education association said on Thursday (4 February) that it will tighten guidelines for its 20 members following the death of a student after he had participated in a school activity at Safra Yishun.

The 15-year-old student from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) had purportedly lost his footing while participating in a high-element course on Wednesday, the police said in a statement. He was suspended by the safety harness and subsequently lost consciousness when he was lowered to the ground.

The boy was found unresponsive by officers at the scene. He was later conveyed unconscious to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where he died on Thursday. Preliminary investigations suggest there is no foul play, the police said.

In a statement shared with Yahoo News Singapore, the Outdoor Learning & Adventure Education (OLAE) Association said, “This incident is a tragedy. A young life was lost. Our hearts go out to his parents. The association will be issuing a notice to our members to meet and work on how we can prevent such an incident from happening again.”

OLAE said a “strong reminder” has been sent out to all outdoor education providers to ensure that all processes are in place, including on the skill competency of instructors and best practices at various campsites.

The Ministry of Education and ACS (I) issued a joint statement to say they are “greatly saddened” by the death of the student.

“Together, we are working closely to give our fullest support to the family as well as the student’s classmates and teachers during this trying time. The safety of our students has always been a priority for us, and we are working with the police and relevant parties to investigate the incident.”

The joint statement said that pending the completion of investigations, all schools will suspend outdoor activities involving high elements with immediate effect.

Safra has also issued a statement saying that ACS(I) had contracted Camelot, an accredited vendor, to run the specific programme for its students. “As investigations are ongoing, all activities at the adventure sports centre have been temporarily suspended.”

In an earlier Facebook post, OLAE honorary secretary Delane Lim said that as the matter is under investigation, “we should not speculate or (be) wild guessing what actually happened but to allow the fact finding process to take place by the authorities and relevant parties. This incident will certainly impact our outdoor community significantly”.

A check on OLAE’s website shows Camelot is one of the 20 members of the association. Camelot currently has several campsites all over Singapore and Asia, according to the company’s website. Apart from the adventure centre at Safra Yishun, Camelot also runs sites at Heritage Chalet and Pulau Ubin.

Yahoo News Singapore has also looked at a 72-page document issued by OLAE stipulating the standards of industry practices for its members. Published in 2018, the document covers chapters such as “Programme Design and Facilitation” and “Height Activities”.

In the chapter on “Height Activities”, OLAE outlines the roles and responsibilities of organisations and trainers.

Among them, an organisation must choose the “appropriate height activities” for the learning outcomes of a programme, ensure that a trainer is familiar with the operating areas for the relevant height activities, and establish emergency response procedures.

A trainer must be able to carry out height activities based on the site-specific protocols and guidelines, and obtain updated information about the operating environment from facilities owners in order to do risk assessment of their sites, among other responsibilities.

Camelot also issued a statement to say it is deeply saddened about the student’s death and offered its deepest condolences to the student’s family for their loss. It added that it would continue to provide its fullest cooperation to the relevant authorities investigating the matter.

OLAE concluded its statement by saying, “As organisers of such events, we need to reflect - why and how did it happened (sic). How can we repay the trusts (sic) of the parents who put their kids in our hands and ensure that their kids return home safely after every outing.”

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