SCDF rescues injured hiker from Clementi Forest on National Day

A team of rescuers entered the forest and hiked 20 minutes through rough terrain to reach the family's location about 900m away. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

SINGAPORE - A teenager who went hiking with his parents on National Day in Clementi Forest dislocated his knee after falling in swampy terrain, and had to be carried out on a stretcher.

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers took nearly two hours to rescue the boy after receiving a call for help at 6.10pm on Monday (Aug 9) last week.

A light fire attack vehicle from Bukit Batok Fire Station and an ambulance from Clementi Fire Station arrived at the entrance to the forest opposite Maju Camp nine minutes later.

A team of rescuers hiked through rough terrain for 20 minutes to reach the family about 900m away.

Paramedics and firefighters involved in the rescue told The Straits Times the boy dislocated his knee when his leg was stuck between two thick roots after he fell. It took the rescuers under a minute to free his leg.

Paramedic Nurazhar Hanafiah said: "We had to immobilise his leg, and we gave him painkiller medication. After that, we pulled him out and secured him on the collapsible stretcher."

Then, the team faced the fresh problem of carrying the injured teen out as darkness fell. It was too risky to go back through the rough terrain they had used earlier.

They eventually found a way to the Rail Corridor after navigating the dense foliage, at times walking in a single file.

Upon exiting near King Albert Park, the hiker was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.

Hiking guides who have led tours in Clementi Forest noted that incidents of inexperienced hikers getting lost and injuring themselves have risen since travel restrictions kicked in due to Covid-19.

The latest incident comes after the police received a call for help on Aug 3 at around 7.30pm after three women got lost on a hike there.

The popularity of the 85 ha site has burgeoned, the guides said, after footage and photos of the untamed patch were circulated on social media last year.

Founder of TLC Adventure Tours David Lim, who has 45 years of experience leading treks here and overseas, said: "You'll find fallen logs, exposed roots, tree trunks and branches with thorns. It's pretty slippery at some of these trails beside the rail embankment."

The forest harbours a stretch of the old Jurong Railway Line, which was operational from 1965 to 1992.

Mr Lim estimated that nine in 10 hikers he has encountered were unprepared for walking on unmarked paths because they do not have appropriate footwear or emergency equipment such as whistles and torch lights.

Director of X-Trekkers Adventure Consultant Yeo Ching Khee, who leads walks into the area at least once a week, said: "Most people also make the mistake of underestimating the terrain by going alone or walking off the path".

People in sandals and slippers are a common sight, they said, and those in such inappropriate footwear can be prone to falls especially after it rains.

(From left) Firefighter Muhammad Naufal Gazali, paramedics Fong Teek Soon and Nurazhar Hanafiah, ITE student Shahera Iryani Md Rosli and section commander Shanmugam Alagudass were involved in the rescue in Clementi Forest on Aug 9. PHOTO: SCDF

Director of SGTrek Vijay Kumar Patil, who leads walks in Clementi Forest almost weekly, told ST that over the past three months, he has met about four groups of lost hikers in Clementi Forest and helped them find their way out.

These include parents who take their children to the trail without knowing the dangers of unmarked trails, he added.

He said that Clementi Forest is not an easy trail for beginners, pointing out that most of it is muddy with fallen trees that can make the paths inaccessible.

Said Mr Lim: "It's good for people to enjoy hiking, but most importantly, stay safe".

• Additional Reporting by Deepa Sundar and Jessie Lim

Hiking tips

1. Stay on the trail

"There are many things that can go wrong (when hiking on an unmarked trail) such as entering protected areas, getting lost or not receiving mobile signals when you need to call for help," said Mr Joven Chiew, who runs Facebook group Singapore Hikers. "An injury like a sprain can make a 200m walk feel like 20km. One way to solve this is to stick to the designated trail."

2. Do your research

"Plan and explore the area in the daytime and never start your hike towards the late evening as it usually gets dark earlier in the forest," advised Mr Vijay Kumar Patil, director of travel agency Sgtrek.

3. Be well equipped

Take a torchlight, whistle, food, water and power bank.
"A whistle helps when you have no more energy to shout for help," said TLC Adventure Tours founder David Lim.

4. Go with seasoned hikers

5. Use the right footwear

Wear appropriate footwear like hiking boots.

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