Malaysia ends search for missing kayaker

Missing kayaker Tan Eng Soon, 62, in a photo taken during the Mersing trip. With him is Madam Puah Geok Tin, 57, whose body was found near Kemaman. The two got separated from a group in bad weather.
Missing kayaker Tan Eng Soon, 62, in a photo taken during the Mersing trip. With him is Madam Puah Geok Tin, 57, whose body was found near Kemaman. The two got separated from a group in bad weather.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ONG SIEW LENG

Malaysia has ended search operations for missing Singaporean kayaker Tan Eng Soon, 62, after 10 days of scouring the sea from north Johor to Terengganu on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.

Search efforts were terminated as of 9pm on Sunday.

"The search and rescue operation over 10 days succeeded in finding the kayak with the victims' personal belongings and a female body, while the male victim could not be found," the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said in a statement yesterday.

The search operation, costing more than RM431,000 (S$143,000), involved 155 personnel, and five air and 11 sea assets. "Search and rescue operations would be reactivated if there are new leads," said Johor MMEA director, First Admiral (Maritime) Aminuddin Abdul Rashid.

Mr Tan and Madam Puah Geok Tin, 57, went missing during a kayaking session off the waters of Mersing, Johor, on Aug 8.

Both were part of a group of 15 Singaporeans who had gone on what was described as a routine kayaking expedition that day. But they got separated in bad weather.

Madam Puah's body was found floating near Kemaman, Terengganu, last Wednesday, and her funeral is taking place in Singapore today.

In a statement yesterday, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) expressed its deepest sympathies to the families of the two Singaporeans involved in the tragedy, and thanked Malaysia for its search and rescue efforts.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families during this difficult time," the ministry said. It also expressed the Singapore Government's "deep appreciation" to the Malaysian government and all Malaysian agencies which were involved in the search and rescue (SAR) operations over the past 10 days.

 
 
 
 

"It was an intensive operation, during which assets and manpower were deployed in challenging conditions that covered a vast area of waters off the Malaysian states of Johor, Pahang and Terengganu," the statement said.

"We are especially grateful to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, who led the SAR efforts and coordinated among the various Malaysian agencies both on the ground and at sea."

The ministry added that it had also been "heartened by the support and assistance of ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life, especially the fishermen in the area who played a critical role in the recovery efforts".

Mr Tan's family has also thanked the Malaysian authorities and others involved in the search.

"We would like to thank the MMEA and all other organisations that have been involved in the search for him. The support and compassion of the local fishermen and community have also touched us and given us strength through this difficult time," they said.

The family also thanked MFA for going "above and beyond the call of duty to be with us every step of the way".

"Although we were not able to find his body, we take heart in the fact that he loved the sea and he will be at peace there," they said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysia ends search for missing kayaker'. Print Edition | Subscribe