Waterfall death: Victim a nature lover, doting dad

Kulai Fire and Rescue personnel with the body of Mr Cho (above), who died on Sunday.
Kulai Fire and Rescue personnel with the body of Mr Cho (above), who died on Sunday. PHOTOS: JAMIE KOH, KULAI FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT
(Above)  Madam Chua in a wheelchair at National University Hospital yesterday. She was there for treatment.
(Above) Madam Chua in a wheelchair at National University Hospital yesterday. She was there for treatment.PHOTOS: JAMIE KOH, KULAI FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT
(Above)Kulai Fire and Rescue personnel with the body of Mr Cho, who died on Sunday.
(Above) Kulai Fire and Rescue personnel with the body of Mr Cho, who died on Sunday.PHOTOS: JAMIE KOH, KULAI FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT

He was trying to save his seven-year-old daughter after she slipped on rocks

A nature lover and a doting father, Mr David Cho Kah Loong, 47, treasured the outdoor trips he took with his seven-year-old daughter to neighbouring countries.

It started with a kayaking expedition to Koh Samui, Thailand, when Rachael was just two years old. Since then, the family of three had gone on several trips to parts of Malaysia and Nepal.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr Cho plunged to his death from a 20m-high waterfall while hiking at the Gunung Pulai Recreational Forest in Kulai, Malaysia.

The area is a popular nature spot among Singaporeans as it is just an hour's drive away.

 

At the time of the accident, Mr Cho was trying to save his daughter after she slipped on rocks near the water, said Mr Cho's wife, Madam Chua Soo Hoon, 46, yesterday afternoon.

"We were taking a break at the top of the waterfall when Rachael slipped. Both of us tried to grab her when we fell. It was high," she told The Straits Times at the National University Hospital, where Rachael is warded in the paediatric intensive care unit.

In a message to friends, she explained: "We slid for about 10m together - as a family - before he eventually left us. Dave always wanted to do things as a family."

Adding that it was a "miracle" that she and her daughter survived the fall, she said: "Dave died doing what he loved in the great outdoors that he embraced."


Mr Cho (left) with his daughter during a trip to Malaysia's Endau river three years ago. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHO FAMILY

Kulai Fire and Rescue Department chief Mohd Zainuddin Khairi said that they were alerted to the incident at around 12.55pm and sent five personnel to the scene, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported.

'Maybe it's me, I just love waterfalls'

Before Madam Chua trekked back to the access road to seek help, she noticed that Mr Cho was still breathing but bleeding badly. He was then at the bottom of the waterfall. He was later pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Both mother and daughter returned to Singapore on Sunday evening to seek treatment for their injuries.

Sitting in a wheelchair, Madam Chua had a long cut on her forehead and her nose was bruised. Her left arm was in a bandage.

When asked about her daughter's condition, she would only say that she is "doing okay".

It is believed that they had set off at about 7.45 that morning. Also part of the group were Madam Chua's friend Chua Mei Chin, 47, and seven-year-old Elizabeth Choo. Neither was hurt and they have since returned to Singapore.

It was the family's first visit to the waterfall, although they had previously gone on several trips to Gunung Pulai, said Madam Chua, who added that they were "familiar with the terrain in general".

Mr Sim Cher Huey, 42, who has been friends with Mr Cho for 10 years, said that he loved all sorts of outdoor activities, from hiking to camping and kayaking.

"He was humble, good-natured and funny," he said.

Mr Sim, who owns adventure travel agency Kayakasia, added: "I saw him in Nepal last November, when his whole family paddled down the Sun Kosi River to raise funds for a Nepalese village after the earthquake."

Another friend, Ms Kathy Wong, 46, first met him on the kayaking trip to Koh Samui six years ago.

"(Rachael and her mother) would take a boat from point to point while we would kayak. It was a joy to see little Rach when we arrived at our destination," said the manager in a biopharmaceutical company, who added that Mr Cho was "a truly amazing dad who wanted to share everything" with his daughter.

After visiting the Jerangkang waterfalls in Pahang, Malaysia, about a year ago, Mr Cho had written to Ms Wong: "Maybe it's me, but I just love waterfalls. Swimming in the cool pools of water, getting a free neck or shoulder massage sitting under a torrent of water, then warming up on a rock in the sun eating potato chips... Rachael enjoyed herself too."

In response to media queries, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the Singapore Consulate-General in Johor Baru will continue to provide necessary assistance to the family.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline 'Waterfall death: Victim a nature lover, doting dad'. Print Edition | Subscribe