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Woman sues NUS over husband's death
Mon, Feb 15, 2010
The Straits Times

By K. C. Vijayan

A WOMAN whose husband drowned in a National University of Singapore (NUS) pool is seeking $1 million in damages from the university.

Madam Teong Hui Ching, wife of the late Mr Roland Yeo, is claiming that the university was negligent.

At issue in the suit is the role of the lifeguards during the mishap, what support they provided and whether they could have averted the mishap.

Mr Yeo, 40, suffered a sudden heart attack during a swim in the Olympic-sized pool at the university's Sports & Recreation Centre on June 6, 2007.

The father of two, who was an IT manager with NUS, had gone to the pool for his weekly Wednesday lunch-hour swim with a friend, Mr Er Chee Teck.

He was a health buff who also hiked, cycled and played golf regularly. But he got into difficulties in the water barely 15 minutes into the swim.

As he struggled and sank towards the pool floor, Mr Er swam towards him and hauled him to the surface.

Lifeguards and others responded to Mr Er's cries for help, but efforts to revive Mr Yeo failed. He was taken to National University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A 2008 coroner's inquiry said it was unclear what had caused Mr Yeo to get into difficulties, and recorded a misadventure verdict.

The pathologist had at that time attributed drowning and heart disease as contributory factors to Mr Yeo's death.

A closed-door High Court pre-trial conference was held on Wednesday.

In court documents, Madam Teong claimed the lifeguards on duty were positioned in such a manner that it would have been difficult for them to respond quickly to Mr Yeo when he was having difficulties.

Among other things, she alleged the lifeguards were also required to monitor the entrances and exits of the pool, distracting them from giving full attention to Mr Yeo while he was swimming.

Although the lifeguards had performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Madam Teong questioned why they did not use the Oxy-Viva resuscitator machine - introduced to the centre less than a fortnight before the mishap - to revive him.

The two duty lifeguards who attended to Mr Yeo were NUS students who were working part-time at the pool.

Madam Teong, a housewife, is claiming the alleged negligence led to the loss of her husband and is suing for future dependency claims for her two young children - an eight-year-old and a five-year-old - as well as for herself, which amount to about $1 million.

Her late husband was the sole breadwinner, earning a good salary, and had a promising career as an IT manager, she said in the court documents.

NUS, through lawyer K. Anparasan from KhattarWong, is contesting the suit and has named the pool operator, Hydro Aquatic Swimming School, as the second defendant.

NUS had tendered management of the pool to Hydro Aquatic about two months before the incident occurred.

The operators are in turn taking steps to include their insurers to indemnify them for any liabilities.

Madam Teong, when contacted yesterday through her lawyer V. Mohan Das, declined comment.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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