Underwater World Singapore charged with safety violations on day stingray killed its head diver

·Senior Reporter
·2-min read
SINGAPORE - 2005/08/15: Underwater show at Santosa island. This unique facility feature an underpass below the water tank where hundreds of shraks swim among other species.. (Photo by Roland Neveu/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Underwater show at Underwater World Singapore. (Photo by Roland Neveu/LightRocket via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Defunct Sentosa attraction Underwater World Singapore was charged on Thursday (1 April) for failing to ensure the safety and health of its employees at work on the same day that its chief diver was killed by a stingray in 2016.

The company faces a charge in the State Courts of breaching the Workplace Safety and Health Act on 4 October 2016, by failing to take adequate safety measures for diving operations inside its reef tanks.

On the same day, Underwater World Singapore’s head diver Philip Chan, 62, died after being stung in the chest by a stingray. The charge sheet did not refer to the fatal incident.

The oceanarium closed its doors on 26 June 2016, before its lease ended, to facilitate the transfer of its marine animals.

Chan, who is also the senior supervisor of the curatorial department, had been preparing the stingrays for transfer to another aquarium when the incident happened, Underwater’s owner, Haw Par Corporation, said in a statement following the accident.

According to a past Coroner’s Inquiry into Chan’s death, he had been transferring four Leopard Whiptail Rays from their tanks into a holding area for the purpose of transporting them to a new home in Malaysia, according to media reports.

A struggle ensued as Chan was leading a team of six divers to move the final ray. The team’s first attempt to guide the ray from a reef tank to a shallow 50cm-deep platform into a net failed when it swam back to the deeper end of the tank.

On the next attempt, the ray stayed on the platform, but struck Chan after the diver climbed onto the platform.

Other divers heard his cry and carried him to the quarantine area.They saw a stingray barb protruding from his chest after they cut open his wetsuit. Chan was rushed to Singapore General Hospital, where he was died at around 3.30pm.

Findings delivered by then-State Coroner Marvin Bay on 1 March 2017 ruled Chan’s death a tragic misadventure.

Underwater World Singapore will return to court on 14 May for a further hearing.

If found guilty of a breach under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, the company faces a fine of up to $500,000.

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