Man, 21, dies after vanishing while swimming in canal

Father says he had no idea his son and friends had gone swimming; body later recovered by SCDF divers

Soon after a young man and his friends decided to go swimming in a canal near Upper Serangoon Crescent in the early hours of yesterday, he vanished in the dark water.

When the full-time national serviceman’s friends realised he was nowhere to be seen, they searched frantically for him.

But the next time they saw him again was after Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) divers pulled his body out of the water.

The 21-year-old man’s father told Chinese-language evening daily Lianhe Wanbao yesterday that he had not been aware of his son’s plans.

“I learnt afterwards that my son had gone swimming with five or six friends. They arrived near the canal at 5am. My son disappeared shortly after he got into the water,” said the father, who declined to be named.

He added that the friends did not hear his son shouting for help or struggling in the water.


When they failed to find him, they called the police for help.

The SCDF told The New Paper that it had received a call for water rescue assistance at about 5.45am at the canal below the junction of Upper Serangoon Road and Buangkok Drive.

Two divers from the Disaster Assistance Rescue Team performed an underwater search while a remotely operated vehicle was deployed to assist in the search.

The vehicle allows underwater search operations to be conducted using sonar-imaging equipment that maps out the underwater terrain, the SCDF said.

This reduces the risks for the divers from poor visibility underwater and cuts down the time needed to conduct the search.

The divers later retrieved the man’s body from a depth of about 2m, about 6m from the edge of the canal.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene by an SCDF paramedic.

Wanbao reported that more than 20 relatives and friends were emotionally distressed as they waited outside the police cordon about 100m from the accident site.

A relative who did not want to be named told Wanbao that the victim had a strong physique and loved sports, but he was unsure if he could swim.

The canal leads to the Serangoon River and nearby residents said they had never seen anyone swimming in the water, which looks murky in daytime.

A 58-year-old technician, who wanted to be known only as Mr Cai, said: “I have seen people running beside the canal but never anyone swimming in it.”

A medical worker, who wanted to be known only as Ms Siti, 38, was surprised when she found out about the incident.

She said: “There are railings beside the waterway, which makes it quite safe. I have never seen anyone go swimming in there.”

The police told TNP that no foul play was suspected based on preliminary investigations. Further investigations into the unnatural death are ongoing.

Mr Isaac Lim, dean of the Academy of Water Safety and Swimming, said it is not advisable for people to swim in canals

“There are lots of unseen debris and sludge in canal water, and drowning can happen when a person gets trapped by them,” he told TNP.

“Canals are monsoon drains that allow large volumes of water to flow away quickly,” he added.

“So the water in canals can be fast and unpredictable. A person can get tired quickly trying to swim against the flow.

“Canals are definitely not a safe place to swim, even for a strong swimmer.”

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