Monday, June 25, 2012

21-HOUR ORDEAL: Tugboat finds them floating in open sea off Pulau Tioman

The group of young divers who were rescued by a tugboat yesterday after they were found floating about 20 nautical miles north of Tulai island near Pulau Tioman. The six (from left), Lim Kong Hooi, Maggie Lim, Leong Li Kar, Zu Zhiming, Hu Jia Jie and Wang Jia Xing were brought to the Salang police station on Pulau Tioman

Six certified divers, including two women reported missing on Saturday after a diving trip off Chebeh Island near Pulau Tioman here were found safe yesterday after floating in open sea for about 21 hours.

A passing tugboat -- Kencana Makmur rescued them about 9am yesterday after discovering them floating 3km from Chebeh Island near Tioman island here.

They were female divers Maggie Lim, 27, and Leong Li Kar, 26, as well as male divers Lim Kong Hooi, 27, and Wang Jia Xing, 26, from Malaysia. The others were Singapore national Hu Jia Jie, 25, and Chinese national Zu Zhiming, 32.

They were on a diving trip organised by a Singapore tour agency.

MMEA district enforcement chief Maritime Captain Abdul Aziz Idrus said the divers, who were in good health, were then taken to the Tioman Island police station to have their statements recorded.

Aziz said after rescuing the six, the divers' boat skipper Iwani Yusof, 50, was informed of their rescue, who in turn informed the MMEA base in Mersing, Johor.

The MMEA dispatched a patrol vessel to ferry the divers about 1pm and transfer them to the Tekek Jetty in Pulau Tioman.

In the 12.30pm incident on Saturday, the six were part of a 19-member diving trip. They were divided into three groups for their diving session at Chebeh Island.

The six were nowhere to be found, when the other divers surfaced about 45 minutes later.

This prompted Iwani to radio a distress call to other nearby boats at about 2pm before a search and rescue operation was mounted.

Iwani, who led the team, left the Kampung Salang jetty about 9am on Saturday. They dived for a 40-minute session at Pulau Soyak before heading to the Chebeh Island diving spot.

"Once there, the other two groups, consisting of six divers per group decided to explore the 12m depth, while the third group, comprising seven divers, chose the 30m depth."

He said two groups emerged some 30 minutes later before a dive-master -- Lim Kee Pah, attached to the third group, surfaced alone without the six divers.

After spending several hours searching the area, Iwani returned to Kampung Salang about 7pm before lodging a police report.

Kee Pah, in his police report, said he and the other six divers were in the water for about 15 minutes, when he was separated from the rest, believed to be due to strong currents.

Rompin District deputy police chief, Assistant Superintendent Zainul Muhajidin said all the divers were safe and that they only suffered minor injuries.

Pulau Tioman Marine Parks Department director Mohamed Ridzuan Mohamed Alias said the incident on Saturday was the first reported in the marine park over the past two years.

At press time, MMEA was still arranging for the divers to be ferried back to the mainland at Tanjung Gemok, near Kuala Rompin.

Special Envoy to the United States Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, who is the Rompin member of parliament, an ardent diver himself, said he was pleased to learn the missing divers had been found safe.

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