Diving in wrecks can be dangerous

Ms Sim Qiu Yan, who had received her diving licence in early 2014, drowned on 17 April 2014, while diving off Tioman island in Malaysia.

She was diving off Tioman island in Malaysia last Saturday in an area known for its low visibility and deep waters.

Ms Sim Qiu Yan, 30, drowned that day.

She was said to have been diving near Sipadan Wreck where a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency vessel was sunk to make an artificial reef.

The Singaporean, who had reportedly gone there with eight friends and was accompanied by an instructor, was found missing at about 11.50am on Saturday.

Her body was recovered at about 10pm the same day and taken to Kuantan General Hospital, said Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

Details about her death remain unclear and it is not known if she was actually diving in the wreck, but dive instructors told The New Paper that diving in wrecks in open water has its dangers.

One of the main problems is the depth of the wreckage, they said.

The Sipadan Wreck, for example, is in area that is about 30m deep and is for advanced divers.

Those with basic certification are allowed to dive only at a maximum depth of 18m, said Mr Leon Boey, who owns diving operator Living Seas.

Ms Sim, a mother of one, had reportedly received her diving licence just this year.

Said Mr Boey, 35, who has eight years of instructor experience: "I don't think she would have gone into the wreck because new

divers would require training to go down that far.

"While she could have received advanced training, there could have been other factors at play here. For example, maybe the currents were strong."

Mr Song Shing Hae, president of the Singapore Underwater Federation, which is the national sports authority for diving and underwater activities, said there are protocols for wreck diving.

These rules take into account the experience of the diver, degree of difficulty of the wreck, visibility, current movement, siltation, depth, endurance of gas source and dive system used.

The 56-year-old said: "Risk management will then be taken into account to reduce the possibility of any hazard as practicable as possible before making the dive."

But Mr Song also acknowledged that many things can go wrong during a dive even when all precautions have been taken.

For example, the state of health and fitness of the diver could be a factor.

Even technical matters, such as the lack of gas in the breathing tanks, can cause anxiety or apprehension with experienced divers, leading to panic, he noted.

Another source of danger could be the area of exploration itself.

A commercial diver, who declined to be named, said wrecks are usually dangerous places to explore because "you could get entangled in the wreckage and they tend to be in deeper areas where newer divers aren't trained for".

 

DIFFERENT EQUIPMENT

"While checking out wrecks is attractive to new divers, the reality is you also need different equipment, like spare tanks," added the 38-year-old, who has 10 years of experience as a diving instructor.

But, as Mr Boey said, there are always inherent risks in sports like diving.

The general rule is to stick close to your dive buddies.

Said Mr Boey: "When you are underwater, make sure the people you are diving with take care of you.

"That is best way to take care of any problem while you are out at sea."

Ms Sim, a receptionist, reportedly leaves behind a husband, 38, a taxi driver, and a five-year-old daughter.

 

This article was published on April 23 in The New Paper.

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