Death of 3-year-old Malaysian boy in swimming pool ruled tragic misadventure

Singapore state courts (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

The drowning of a 3-year-old Malaysian boy in a swimming pool at an aunt’s house in Singapore was ruled a tragic misadventure by the Coroner on Tuesday (10 July).

Chee Kong, who was in Singapore with his family over the Chinese New Year period, was found lying face down in the pool at Jalan Punai on 17 February this year. He passed away on 21 February.

The swimming pool, which had a constant depth of 1.2m, was located next to the living area of the house with only the side sliding doors separating the pool and the hall. On the day of the accident, the toddler wandered out through the doors, which had been left open to let fresh air in.

Chee had arrived in Singapore a day before the tragedy with his mother, father and younger brother to spend the night at the house. After the family had dinner, Chee squatted to play with the pool water but his father admonished him for doing so. His father also refused to let him go to the other side of the pool.

The 1.06m tall boy repeatedly played with the pool water even though he could not swim, according to his family. His prolonged submersion in the pool caused hypoxia, which led to brain and organ damage and eventually resulted in Chee’s death.

The house’s closed circuit television video footage from 17 February showed that the boy is playing without supervision at the front porch of the house at around 7.05am before bending down in front of the pool to play with the water. He is later seen entering the house.

At 7.17am, Chee is seen entering the pool from an opening in the sliding door and struggling in the water face up. He is captured flailing in vain to reach the pool wall. His struggles become feebler and his movements stop at 7.20am.

His aunt, Chee Yoke Peng, was alerted to the incident when the boy’s grandmother exclaimed as she looked into the direction of the pool. She jumped into the pool and pulled the boy up. The boy’s father, who was alerted by the commotion, then began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his son. By then, some 40 minutes had passed since Chee stopped struggling.

In delivering the findings, Coroner Marvin Bay said that it was internationally recognised that drowning was a leading cause of accidental death for children aged five and below.

While the Coroner’s Court has made efforts to reinforce prevention messages to avert child drownings in public pools, it was essential that these messages “be brought home to individuals who own or have control and access to private pools”, said the Coroner.

Chee’s father consented to have his son’s kidneys harvested, which were donated on 22 February. The Coroner noted the gesture “would have changed the lives of individual recipients”.

“It may (be) of some comfort to Master Chee’s family to know that his memory will live on in the gratitude of the persons who have received these priceless gifts of life and restoration”.

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