KOTA KINABALU • Malaysian police have launched a manhunt for those involved in the deaths of three divers in waters off Pulau Kalapuan in Sabah's diving haven of Semporna.
They have so far arrested a 24-year-old boatman and a 23-year-old guide in the incident, in which the trio were believed to have died on Friday from fish-bombing activities.
The trio have been identified as local divemaster Ab Zainal Abdu, 30, and Chinese nationals Zhao Zhong and Xu Yingjie, both 26, who were diving near the island at the time.
Police are coordinating follow-up operations in Semporna to locate more suspects.
Sources said initial investigations indicated that the deaths were due to fish-bombing activities as police found a lot of dead fish in the area where the three divers were killed.
There were also signs of damage to nearby coral, and to the trio's diving equipment. Their bodies were found at a depth of 5.8m.
The source said the two suspects arrested had told police that they dropped off Mr Ab Zainal and the two tourists at the dive site at around 2.30pm.
An hour later, the two suspects returned to the dive site and called for assistance when they found sea foam around the area.
Another diver helped to pull the lifeless bodies of the three divers out of the water by 4.50pm and the bodies were sent to Tawau Hospital for a post-mortem.
Officials yesterday condemned illegal fish-bombing activities.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew called for stricter penalties following the incident.
"This incident goes beyond the safety of tourists diving in the area, it also mars the areas which we consider as (natural) treasures," she said in a statement.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims, and said the safety of tourists was paramount.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK