Missing Singaporean kayakers: Fishermen find body of woman in waters off Terengganu

The missing kayakers, Madam Puah Geok Tin and Mr Tan Eng Soon.
PHOTO: Internet

The body of a woman wearing a life jacket was found in waters off Terengganu yesterday afternoon, but Malaysian authorities could not confirm as of press time if she was businesswoman Puah Geok Tin, one of the two Singaporean kayakers who had gone missing in a kayak last Thursday.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said the body was found floating about five nautical miles east of Kuala Kemaman in Terengganu state by local fishermen - 185km from where retired lawyer Tan Eng Soon and Madam Puah were last seen.

It was reported that the family of Madam Puah, 57, were headed to a hospital in Kemaman to help identify the body.

This comes a day after another fisherman found the bright green double kayak shared by Madam Puah and Mr Tan, 62, in open waters near Tanjung Gelang, which is close to Kuantan Port in Pahang.

Kuala Kemaman is about 30km north of Tanjung Gelang.

At a press conference at Penyabong Jetty in Endau, Johor, yesterday evening, MMEA Mersing zone chief Haris Fadzillah Abdullah said the body was found by local fishermen at 12.50pm.

"The body arrived at Kemaman Zone MMEA at 4.30pm and was sent to Hospital Kemaman for post-mortem and identification by the family."

Some family members of Madam Puah and Mr Tan have been keeping vigil at Penyabong Jetty over the last few days.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that Madam Puah's family members were seen entering a room at the search and rescue (SAR) centre, where local authorities and consulate personnel spoke to them.

Several minutes later, Mr Louis Pang, Madam Puah's son, and her husband, Mr Peng Mun Kit, 56, left the room visibly upset.

Josephine Puah

Posted by Louis Smile on Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Just a few hours before, at 11am, Mr Pang, 23, and Mr Tan's wife, Madam Kwan Yoke Yee, 58, had verified the personal belongings recovered from the missing pair's kayak.

Items included food rations, waterproof bags, two wallets containing Malaysian and Singaporean currency, Mr Tan's passport, his mobile phone, an identification card and a paddle.

The fisherman who found the kayak had used Mr Tan's phone to contact his family via a WhatsApp chat group, alerting them to the kayak's discovery.

In an Instagram post at about noon yesterday, Mr Pang noted that four 1.5 litre water bottles belonging to Madam Puah and Mr Tan were not in the kayak.

He wrote: "We still have high hopes on my mummy and (Mr Tan's) return."

Following the discovery of the body, the search area by air assets has been widened, stretching from the waters off Kuantan to Kerteh in Terengganu, reported Malaysian news agency Bernama.


"With this development, the search around islands in Endau waters has been temporarily called off because we have covered those areas," said Mr Haris.

The SAR operation enters its seventh day today and involves four helicopters, one aeroplane, three vessels and seven boats.

At a press conference earlier in the afternoon, before the discovery of the body, Mr Haris said the air search area had been expanded from 900 to 1,200 square nautical miles - more than 4,000 sq km - while the sea search area was reduced from 600 to 451 square nautical miles.

Land search operations would cover 60km in total, and the operation would involve 119 personnel in all.

Mr Haris said SAR personnel have also scoured 10 islands around Endau waters at the request of the families of Mr Tan and Madam Puah but to no avail, according to Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News,

"For the past two days, the sea has been rough with waves of between 1.5m and 3m high, which is dangerous to small boats," he said.

Mr Tan and Madam Puah went missing at about 5.40pm last Thursday after being separated from a kayaking group of 13 others.

They were making their way to Pulau Mertang Timur, one of the islands near Endau, amid strong winds and choppy waters.

The five-day kayaking trip over the National Day weekend had been organised by Mr Goh Khee Wei, who was also the guide for the group.

Shin Min Daily News reported on Tuesday that the Malaysian police have asked Mr Goh to assist with their investigations into the incident.

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.

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