The death of a secondary one student from drowning in the waters off East Coast Park was ruled a “tragic misadventure” in the Coroner’s Court on Tuesday (26 September).
Delivering his verdict, State Coroner Marvin Bay highlighted that the death of Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian on 8 May this year was the 11th drowning of a child under the age of 12 since January 2014.
The court heard that Suhaimi, 12, was with seven classmates from Jurongville Secondary School to play skate scooters at East Coast Park at 11.30am before they decided to play in the sea. One of the boys chose not to do so while the remaining seven went into the waters.
The boys could feel the sea bed with their feet when they entered the water. But as they ventured further away from the shore, they could not feel their feet on the sea bed and began to panic. They made for the shore while also called for help.
Beachgoer Hajas Silvia Claudia heard the shouting and proceeded towards the group. Three of the boys managed to swim back unaided while the remaining four boys, including Suhaimi, were still struggling in the water.
Hajas was able to pull two of the boys to safety. Of the remaining two boys in the waters, Suhaimi began to drift further out while the other boy was rescued by Hajas and a passer-by who had used a life buoy.
The police arrived at the scene while Singapore Civil Defence Force officers assisted in the search for Suhaimi.
At 3.10pm, SCDF officers found Suhaimi floating by a water breaker, some 50 metres away from where he had last been seen. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, the boy was pronounced dead at 3.18pm.
According to a report from the Maritime and Authority, the tide was not regarded as strong at the time of the incident.
The National Parks Board has informed the investigation that there are no designated swimming areas in East Coast Park. In the wake of Suhaimi’s death, NParks will be increasing the number of life buoy stations in the park, and plans to to reduce the distance between life buoys on site.
SC Bay said a child should not swim without adult supervision and even in a group of children, there should be adults to watch over them.
“Suhaimi’s sad demise stands as a grim reminder for beachgoers to never underestimate the potential for harm when they enter the waters off a beach,” he added.