Waterfall trek ends in tragedy

FATAL FALL: Mr Lee Jun Jie had been on a trekking expedition with 22 other participants.

SINGAPORE - He was at the top of a seven-tiered waterfall, reputed to be one of the highest in South-east Asia, to catch the sunset.

That lovely view of the Gunong Stong State Park in Kelantan would have been the last thing National University of Singapore (NUS) student Lee Jun Jie saw.

He died after falling into the water below.

A spokesman for the fire and rescue station there told Bernama: "He (Mr Lee) was said to have stood on the slippery cliff to enjoy the sunset before falling into the waterfalls below."

Mr Lee had been on a trekking expedition with 22 other participants. The group had arrived in Dabong, a small town, on Saturday afternoon and were at Baha's Camp, at the top of the waterfall, by evening. Mr Lee is believed to have fallen at about 7pm.

A search-and-rescue operation was mounted by police, forest rangers and other personnel after they received a call at 7.30pm on Saturday.

But due to the dark and slippery conditions, search-and-rescue operations only started yesterday at 7.30am, reported Channel NewsAsia.

Mr Lee's body was found at about 9.50am in the lake below and was taken to Kuala Krai Hospital for a post-mortem.

The cause of death was listed as drowning.

Mr Lee's friends were shocked at the news of his death.

Said fellow student Kwek Jia En, 21: "We are all very shocked that such a young and nice person had to leave like this and so suddenly."

According to her, Mr Lee was very interested in K-pop.

He even went on a summer exchange programme to Korea in the middle of the year, and loved singing along to K-pop songs.

 

Miss Jung Yoon Sun, 22, who goes to Korea University and met him while he was on exchange, added that he was "friendly, kind and nice".

In July, she had visited Singapore for a holiday and Mr Lee and his friends took her sightseeing.

She said: "I was not well prepared for travelling and was unsure where to go.

"But Jun Jie and his friends took me to Gardens by the Bay and to a seafood dinner. He even insisted on paying for my dinner. Jun Jie was very outgoing. I never saw him without a smile.

"It's very sad to see him go."

In a statement, a spokesman from NUS said it is "deeply saddened" by Mr Lee's passing. Mr Lee's family was immediately informed about the accident and NUS is in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) here and the Malaysian authorities.

Two university staff members are accompanying the student's family in Malaysia and the university staff are also ready to provide assistance and support to the student's family and friends.

The other participants are safe, but the trekking trip has been cancelled.

University staff are making arrangements for the group to return to Singapore as soon as possible, the spokesman said.

"The University is monitoring the situation closely. Our thoughts are with the student's family and friends during this difficult time."

The website of the NUS Rovers, a student-led interest group that organises trekking trips overseas, states that the group had set off to Gunung Stong last Thursday, and were supposed to return today.

The trek was to take them to "a cave, two waterfalls and a whole lot of rainforest".

An MFA spokesman said the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur is aware of the incident. "The High Commission is rendering consular assistance to the deceased's next-of-kin. We extend our condolences to the family of the deceased Singaporean."

 

PAST CASES

2008 Two Singaporeans were swept away by a flash flood while visiting a waterfall in Endau-Rompin National Park in Johor, Malaysia.

They had been swimming in the water and were swept away by the sudden rapids.

They managed to cling onto a rope, but the local guide who jumped in after them drowned while trying to rescue them.

1995

A 19-year-old undergraduate died after falling off a waterfall at Mount Ophir, in Johor, Malaysia. She had gone to a cascading pool to wash her feet. But she fell into the water, and was swept away. She fell over the edge of the waterfall into a pool, about 70m below.

1994

A 29-year-old engineer slipped on some rocks at a waterfall at Mount Ophir. He fractured his skull. Friends pulled him out, but he died on the way to the hospital.


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