Death of boy found floating in pool over Chinese New Year a tragic misadventure: Coroner

SINGAPORE - What started out as a joyful Chinese New Year family gathering turned into a tragedy when a three-year-old Malaysian boy was found floating face down in a swimming pool at his aunt's house on Feb 17.

Chee Kong , who came to Singapore with his father, grandmother and younger brother, died of hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy - lack of oxygen and blood flowing to the brain - and pneumonia in KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) four days later.

In an inquiry into this death on Tuesday (July 10), Coroner Marvin Bay found Kong's death to be a tragic misadventure and said that the 1.06m tall toddler had likely entered the 1.2m deep pool when he was alone.

The coroner added: "While there is no substitute for vigilant and constant supervision of young children around the pool area, the family has a responsibility to safeguard the pool.

"The ideal manner is to secure the pool perimeter with a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate to prevent a child from wandering into the pool area unsupervised."

Coroner Bay also said that it may be useful to install an alarm to alert family members inside the house if the gate is opened.

"Where a pool has been constructed around the perimeter of the house... it is incumbent to secure all doors and windows leading to the pool so children do not have unsupervised access from inside the house," he said.

Kong and his family arrived at his aunt's Jalan Punai house near Eunos Link to celebrate the Chinese New Year holidays at around 5pm on Feb 16.

They stayed overnight there and early the next day, the boy woke up before telling his father that he wanted to look for his grandmother in another part of the semi-detached house.

Coroner Bay said that according to his grandmother, Madam Ong Ah Yong, 79, she saw him playing with the family dog at around 7am on Feb 17.

She was talking to her daughter, Madam Chee Yoke Peng, 45, at around 8am when she spotted the boy floating motionless in the middle of the pool.

Madam Ong shouted when she saw him, alerting her other family members about what she had seen.

Madam Chee waded towards Kong, pulled him out and performed a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) rescue.

His father, Mr Chee Kiam Ching, 44, also joined her and performed CPR chest compressions.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force and the police were alerted and Kong reached Changi General Hospital at around 8.30am. He was later transferred to KKH where he died on Feb 21.