Singapore lifesaver and kayaking trainer drowns in Perak

He was a lifesaver, a kayaking trainer and a lover of water sports.

But that only made the circumstances of Mr Koh Kah Wei's death a bigger blow for Mr Moe Aripe, his mentor of 15 years.

On Saturday, Mr Koh, 30, died doing what he loved.

He drowned while kayaking in white water with six friends in the Sungai Tesong in Perak.

His body was found yesterday after a day's search.

Mr Moe, 56, told The New Paper: "He was well-equipped to deal with all kinds of water situations. To die due to drowning is very shocking. I'm still in a state of disbelief."

Adding that they had met up about two weeks ago, Mr Moe, who runs Angel Lifesaver School, said: "He must have been unconscious."

The Bidor Fire and Rescue Department in Perak received a distress call about the incident on Saturday at about 4.50pm.

Department chief Nadzir Razak told Bernama: "His kayak hit driftwood and overturned, throwing him into the water. His friends tried to help but failed as the current was swift."

A 30-man search and rescue operation was conducted on the same day, but was hampered by bad weather.

Tapah Fire and Rescue Department's Assistant Superintendent Kamarulzaman Busirun said the search resumed at about 7am yesterday with a 67-man team.

He told TNP: "It was a relay rescue operation with one group taking over from another. We wanted to make sure the search was continuous."

At 3.15pm, Mr Koh's body was found near a rock about 1km from the site of the accident.

His shirt was stuck between rocks.

Family grief

Mr Kamarulzaman said: "The victim's family who were present were crying. We tried to calm them down, and tell them nobody would wish for this to happen."

He added that the body has been sent to Tapah Hospital for a post-mortem.

Last night, Mr Koh's sister, Yu Xiang, posted details of his wake at Block 301D, Anchorvale Drive on his Facebook account.

In Singapore, the lifesaving fraternity is coming to terms with news of Mr Koh's death.

Said Mr Moe: "I have been receiving calls from other instructors and lifesaving teacher colleagues asking me about it. It's been a hard time for me trying to explain to everyone what has happened."

The loss is more painful for him as he had come to see Mr Koh like his son, after mentoring him for 15 years.

He said: "Kah Wei was a very good swimmer. I pushed him hard.

"He was among a group I handpicked and trained to become swimming instructors and lifesaving coaches because they are good.

"I became not just a coach or mentor but a fatherly figure to them. I would be fierce or harsh whenever any one of them did something out of line."

Mr Koh was qualified to conduct lifesaving examinations.

He was also a lecturer at the National Community Leadership Institute, the community leadership development arm of the People's Association (PA).

He was also an instructor at PA-Water Venture, which offers water and adventure sports activities.

Said Mr Moe: "He achieved what he wanted. I was really very proud of him. Suddenly, all that is taken away."

This article was first published on Oct 31, 2016.
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