Search for missing male Singaporean kayaker called off by Malaysian authorities

The MMEA addressing media at a press conference on 15 August, 2019, (left) and the missing Tan Eng Soon, 62. (PHOTOS: MMEA, Louis Pang/Instagram)

SINGAPORE — The search for missing Singaporean male kayaker Tan Eng Soon, 62, was called off at 9pm on Sunday (18 August) by Malaysian authorities, 10 days after he and a fellow Singaporean went missing in choppy Endau waters in Mersing.

“The 10-day search and rescue operation was successful in locating the body for a female victim along with a kayak and personal belongings. The man’s body has not been located,” said the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in a press release issued in Malay on Monday.

The search for Tan, a retired lawyer, was called off due to “the lack of new clues” following the discovery of the body of Josephine Puah Geok Tin, 57, but will be reactivated if new leads are found, said Johor MMEA director First Admiral Aminuddin Abdul Rashid.

Puah’s remains were found last Wednesday in the waters off Terengganu and repatriated to Singapore two days later.

The duo became separated from a group of 13 other Singaporeans at around 5.40pm in Endau waters on 8 August, some eight hours after setting off from a jetty in Mersing. They were believed to have drifted away from the group due to turbulent sea and strong wind conditions.

Aminuddin said the 10-day operation - which cost RM431,380 (S$143,121) - involved 155 personnel, five air assets and 11 sea assets from multiple agencies, including the Royal Malaysia Police, Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia, Royal Malaysian Navy, and Malaysia Civil Defence Force.

Together with the “fishermen as well as maritime and local communities”, the operation included searches conducted from the air, sea surface, coastlines and islands, he added, while thanking those who were directly and indirectly involved in it.

In a statement issued on Monday, a spokesperson from the Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said, “We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the two Singaporeans involved in a mishap while kayaking in Mersing, Malaysia. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families during this difficult time.”

The spokesperson also expressed its appreciation and gratitude to the Malaysian government and authorities, including the MMEA, involved in the search and rescue operation.

“It was an intensive operation, during which assets and manpower were deployed in challenging conditions that covered a vast area of waters off the Malaysian states of Johor, Pahang and Terengganu,” added the spokesperson.

“We have also been heartened by the support and assistance of ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life, especially the fishermen in the area who played a critical role in the recovery efforts.”

The search and operation for Tan on Saturday covered an area of 300 nautical square miles (776 sq km) from waters of Kemaman to Kuala Terengganu.

It was previously narrowed last Friday to the waters between Kemaman and Merchang in Marang, after a body, still strapped with a life jacket, was reportedly sighted in Dungun waters a day before.

Tan’s son, Jeremy, last Thursday called on for local residents to continue looking out for his father as they have been instrumental in the search, according to a CNA report.

A green kayak used by the duo was found early last week by a fisherman more than 80 nautical miles (148 km) away from where Tan and Puah were last seen.

Two bags containing their personal belongings, including Malaysian and Singapore currencies, a Singapore passport belonging to Tan, and an identity card were found in the kayak, said local authorities.

Josephine Puah’s funeral

Puah will be cremated at the Mandai Crematorium at around 2pm on Tuesday, following a three-day wake held at Tampines Street 12.

In an Instagram story post last Friday, Louis Pang, Puah’s son, thanked well-wishers for the care and support expressed for his family.

“Josephine Puah Geok Tin has lived her life to the fullest,” he said.

“Thank you once again for all your kindness, love and support towards us. We truly appreciate it.”

(SCREENCAP: Louis Pang/Instagram)

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