'I thought I was carrying a dead body': Spanish national who saved a man from drowning off Kusu Island

The police were alerted at 2.37pm last Saturday to a suspected drowning incident involving two men off Kusu Island.
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

SINGAPORE - Inigo Nicolas Ortiz was on a picnic on Kusu Island last Saturday (Feb 12) to celebrate his birthday with some friends when he heard people shouting.

At first he thought they were fellow sunseekers having fun, but the 28-year-old quickly realised that something was amiss.

"We listened more closely and realised we could hear fear and panic in their voices," the Spanish national told The Straits Times on Monday.

"They were waving towards the water and when I looked over, I saw a man floating," he added.

Mr Ortiz immediately ran to the water and swam to the man to help him.

"I thought I was carrying a dead body," he added, noting that the man was unconscious.

As an avid swimmer with some experience in free diving, Mr Ortiz managed to keep the man's head above water and tried to revive him. The man eventually vomited and started breathing again, he said.

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The police said they were alerted at 2.37pm last Saturday to a suspected drowning incident involving two men off Kusu Island.

One was a 28-year-old man who was rescued by Mr Ortiz. The other was a 24-year-old man who is still missing, they added.

Mr Ortiz said: "I was thinking of his family while I was carrying him. Sometimes he was breathing but sometimes he wasn't. I was just hoping for a good outcome of the situation."

Mr Ortiz's friend, who declined to be named, said he was worried when he saw Mr Ortiz struggling in the water under the large man's weight. The 32-year-old engineer had dived in to join Mr Ortiz to help the victim.

With help from some people on jet skis, they managed to get the 28-year-old man onto a boat. The boat then sailed to Sentosa as they felt they would get medical help faster there.

"I was running on adrenaline, slapping him to keep him from going unconscious. Slowly he went from just breathing to mumbling a few words. He tried opening his eyes a few times, but you can tell he was not 100 per cent conscious," Mr Ortiz said.

After getting medical help for the man, Mr Ortiz returned to Kusu Island and found out a second man was in the water that they had not noticed.

Mr Ortiz's friend, who stayed behind while the others were getting help in Sentosa, searched the water for an hour for the second man with other beach goers. But they could not find him and had to give up the search due to exhaustion.

He said: "It was devastating not being able to find the other person. I'm still very shocked and sad about what happened. It took me a while to get over it a little bit, it does weigh on you."

Mr Ortiz later met the family and friends of the two men on the island. He told the brother of the 28-year-old that he was fine and receiving medical help.

"He was in shock, he didn't know how to react," Mr Ortiz said of the brother.

ST has contacted the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force for updates.

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.