Now-defunct Underwater World guilty of safety lapses

Probe after diver's death found that emergency steps in place were inadequate

Mr Chan Kum Weng was trying to catch a leopard ray at Underwater World Singapore on Oct 4, 2016, when a venomous barb from the stingray's tail pierced his chest. He was taken to hospital, where he died later that day.
Mr Chan Kum Weng was trying to catch a leopard ray at Underwater World Singapore on Oct 4, 2016, when a venomous barb from the stingray's tail pierced his chest. He was taken to hospital, where he died later that day.ST FILE PHOTO

Investigators found lapses in Underwater World Singapore's (UWS) safety measures after a stingray fatally stung one of its divers in 2016.

Among other things, a district court heard yesterday that the now-defunct Sentosa attraction had failed to provide adequate recovery procedures in emergencies during diving operations.

UWS had also failed to implement a system to document checks on diving equipment before it was used.

The court, however, heard that the lapses had not resulted in Mr Chan Kum Weng's death. The 62-year-old man and his colleagues were trying to catch a leopard ray at around 2.30pm on Oct 4, 2016, when it suddenly attacked him.

The venomous barb on the stingray's tail pierced Mr Chan's chest, and he was pronounced dead later that day. On March 1, 2017, then State Coroner Marvin Bay found Mr Chan's death to be a tragic misadventure.

UWS, which was owned by Haw Par Leisure, admitted in a district court yesterday that it had failed to take necessary measures to ensure its workers' safety. It pleaded guilty to an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

UWS ceased operations in June 2016.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Mohd Rizal said that UWS was in the process of vacating its premises in Siloso Road when the tragedy occurred four months after it closed. Mr Chan and his colleagues were trying to capture the leopard ray in a reef tank, to transfer it to another tank.

After the ray stung him, he was taken to the Singapore General Hospital, where he died of a "penetrating injury to the chest by a stingray barb" at around 3.30pm that day.

Following this tragedy, investigations revealed that UWS did not document the safe work procedures for the capture of marine animals.

Mr Mohd said: "The said activity was mainly undertaken by (Mr Chan), and he would plan and execute the capturing works, which included briefing on the capturing methods he had devised, the allocation of manpower required, equipment needed and the foreseeable risks and precautions to take during capturing.

"Investigations further revealed that no standby diver was appointed in case of an emergency... Should a diver encounter an emergency situation, such as loss of consciousness, it would not be picked up by the buddy diver immediately, as there was no line of sight or any form of lifeline provided."

UWS will be sentenced on Feb 25.

For committing the offence, UWS can be fined up to $500,000.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2021, with the headline 'Now-defunct Underwater World guilty of safety lapses'. Subscribe