Family of Singaporean swept into sea in Western Australia hopeful even as search efforts prove unsuccessful

Search efforts for missing Singaporean Goh Heng Yi by the Western Australian Police Force, on July 1, 2020. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GOH HENG YI'S FRIENDS
Search efforts by the Western Australian Police Force as seen on July 1, 2020. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GOH HENG YI'S FRIENDS

SINGAPORE - Five days after Mr Goh Heng Yi was swept into the sea by waves at Australia's western coast, his family is still hoping for a miracle.

His father, who only gave his name as Mr Goh, said that while he was informed that search operations for his son were suspended on Friday (July 3), his family has not given up hope that his son may be found alive.

On Monday evening (June 29), the 23-year-old student was at Injidup Nature Spa - a natural rock formation on Injidup beach - when he was hit by a large wave.

"The man was standing on rocks within metres of the ocean when a large wave broke over the rocks, knocking him into the ocean," said a Western Australia Police Force spokesman.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which informed the elder Mr Goh of the incident on the day it occurred, sought permission from the Australian government for the family of the student to travel there amid border entry restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, while permission was granted on Wednesday (July 1) evening, the family has chosen not to travel to Perth yet, as they would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

"Our family is already very distraught, and being locked up for 14 days will cause us a lot of emotional distress," Mr Goh, a 64-year-old retiree, told The Straits Times.

An appeal for the family to be exempted from the two-week quarantine upon arrival in Australia on compassionate grounds is pending approval.

"(If) the exemption for quarantine is granted we will catch a flight and go. I am hoping the Australian authorities can be more understanding and sympathetic," said Mr Goh, who added that he understood the Australian authorities' position on the quarantine, given the ongoing Covid-19 situation.

"As a parent, for this to happen and for us to not be able to be there, it is very sad, and a cruel situation to be in. Even if he cannot be found, we still have hope, we want to go there and pray for him as his family."

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Mr Goh said he last exchanged messages with his son the night before the incident occurred, and that the family kept in touch with him frequently through messages and video calls after he started his masters degree in economics at the University of Western Australia in February.

He added that the incident might not have occurred if not for border closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic as his son was currently on a term break and would have returned to Singapore to spend time with family.

Land and sea search efforts for the student involved various police units and volunteers from the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia, Naturaliste Volunteer Marine Rescue and Smiths Beach Surf Club.

Search efforts involving jet skis for missing Singaporean Goh Heng Yi by the Western Australian Police Force on July 3, 2020. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MR GOH HENG YI'S FRIENDS

However, operations were hampered by rough ocean conditions, which at times prevented the use of vessels and jet skis.

On Wednesday, a MFA spokesman said that the Singapore High Commission in Canberra is liaising closely with the Australian authorities on the search and rescue efforts for the Singaporean.

ST has been in touch with MFA and the Australian police for updates on the situation.

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