Six kayakers rescued after capsizing off Sentosa Cove

SINGAPORE – Minutes into her first experience kayaking across a channel, Madam Chen Geng Xin was left clinging to a floating sea barrier off Sentosa Cove on Monday morning (May 31).

“I tried to stay afloat but the current kept sucking me underwater in different directions,” said the 41-year-old self-employed enrichment services provider.

She and her husband, Mr Jason Tan, 48, were among six kayakers who had capsized near the floating sea barriers.

In total, there were seven kayakers and one guide on four double-kayaks.

They were on a guided tour with eco-adventure travel company Kayakasia to the Southern Islands when an inflatable double kayak overturned at around 8.05am. Another double-kayak overturned shortly after while trying to help the fallen duo.

Madam Chen and Mr Tan who shared a kayak tried to assist the guide in rescuing the fallen kayakers but ended up toppling into the water with their kayak.

“It was almost impossible for me to stay afloat. Every time I clung on to the barrier, I got cut by barnacles and the current kept dragging me under,” she said.

Panicking, Madam Chen shouted for help as the couple drifted along the barrier.

Their ordeal ended when the kayak guides picked the capsized kayakers up and helped them back into their kayaks. The group was eventually transported to One Degree 15 Marina on a Maritime Port Authority (MPA) boat.

“It was a clear and sunny day, we didn’t expect such a thing to happen,” said Madam Chen, who suffered cuts on her face and body. She has kayaked for recreation for the past 20 years.In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Singapore Civil Defence Force said they received a call for help at around 8.15am and a person was conveyed to Singapore General Hospital.

This incident follows a near death encounter on May 28 by another member of public, who had been swimming from Palawan beach along a floating security barrier and was nearly pulled beyond it by the current.

Mr Sim Cher Huey, 46, founder of Kayakasia said the structure near Sentosa Cove is a known hazard among water sports enthusiasts but many novice kayakers do not know the risk of paddling there, where even experienced kayakers have capsized.

“While undesirable, capsizing does occur every now and then, like how one might sprain a foot while hiking,” he added.

When rescuing someone who has capsized, there is no one-size-fits-all solution as there are many factors such as the strength of the current and the angle that a kayak capsizes at.

He said: “When a kayak capsizes, with qualified kayak guides they are trained to help the customer navigate the challenges.”

Meanwhile, the 15-year-old company has initiated a safety time-out for its trips to the Southern Islands to review processes and do refresher training for the guides.

Separately, the company is submitting an incident report to MPA.

If kayakers do end up capsizing in the open sea, water safety experts said they should always wear a life vest and avoid struggling against undercurrent.

Mr Sim said: “We increasingly see more novice kayakers paddling without a PFD (personal flotation device), which is risky.

It is important to wear a seaworthy PFD that can keep them afloat.”

Mr David Lim, 55, managing director of Swimfast Aquatic Group added: “Once you fight the current, you will easily lose energy. No matter how good a swimmer you are, it’s a losing battle.

“Normally, it is better to let the currents take you to calmer waters.”

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