Man had epileptic seizure while swimming and drowned

The death of Mr Tong Mun Cheong, who drowned after suffering an epileptic seizure in a swimming pool, was found to be an unfortunate misadventure.
The death of Mr Tong Mun Cheong, who drowned after suffering an epileptic seizure in a swimming pool, was found to be an unfortunate misadventure. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - He had epilepsy since childhood and suffered from two to three seizures a month.

Because of this, his family members repeatedly warned him against taking part in activities such as swimming, unless accompanied by friends.

But Mr Tong Mun Cheong, 42, did not heed their advice and went swimming alone at Delta Swimming Complex at around 4pm on Oct 10, last year. The convenience store employee, who was 1.72m tall and weighed 98kg, drowned in a part of the swimming pool where the water was 1.2m deep.

State Coroner Marvin Bay, who found his death to be an unfortunate misadventure, said seizure-related drownings represent a small but potentially preventable proportion of all drownings that have occurred.

He added: "While it may be difficult for people with epilepsy to completely abstain from swimming, it would be prudent for them and their caregivers to take sensible steps to prevent drowning-related mishaps.

"Individuals living with active epilepsy should shower instead of using a bathtub, take medication regularly to ensure seizure control and should have direct supervision when swimming, such as swimming with a friend, or family member who is aware of his or her medical condition."

Coroner Bay said Mr Tong last had a relapse just a few days before his death.

Lifeguard Choh Tien Choon spotted Mr Tong swimming a few laps in the main pool and did not notice any of the swimmers in distress, said Coroner Bay.

But pool user, retiree Szeto Teong Kiang, 68, later spotted Mr Tong motionless at the bottom of the pool.

He alerted Mr Choh who pulled Mr Tong out of the water.

Mr Choh and his colleagues took turns to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

Mr Tong was rushed to the Singapore General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5.20pm.