Teen who drowned at Changi Beach could not swim: State Coroner

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
The boy's body was retrieved by SCDF rescuers around 15m away from the shoreline. (PHOTO: Google StreetView screengrab)
The boy's body was retrieved by SCDF rescuers around 15m away from the shoreline. (PHOTO: Google StreetView screengrab)

SINGAPORE — A teenage boy who drowned after being swept away by the currents off Changi Beach last August failed to realise the dangers for non-swimmers like him when he was in the waters, a Coroner's Inquiry said on Thursday (18 March).

Putera Muhammad Indra Shazrine Suzaini, 14, was in the sea to wash some sand off his body but suddenly could not find his footing on the seabed at the point when the sea water level reached his shoulder.

Putera was swept out further to sea despite the effort by a bystander to save him.

He was found two hours later by Singapore Civil Defence Force Disaster Assistant and Rescue Team (Dart) divers and pronounced dead at the scene at 5.24pm.

State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam pronounced Putera’s death an unfortunate misadventure, noting that Putera and his friend failed to appreciate how strong sea currents or how treacherous seabeds could be.

On 22 August last year, Putera and his friends had gone to Changi Beach at around midday to play. The group set up a simple tent and played in the sand. As they were covered with sand, Putera and two friends decided to wash their bodies in the sea.

While the seawater level was initially waist-high when the group was about five metres from the shoreline, they were eventually pulled out to sea.

As the water level rose, the three began to panic and tried to swim back to shore. However, Putera and one friend, both of whom were unable to swim, were swept away, despite the effort of their other friend to grab onto one of them. The friend returned to shore for help and grabbed a lifebuoy.

A bystander, Muhammad Ilias Syed, who was fishing nearby, heard the shouts for help and swam out to sea to try to rescue Putera. Putera caught hold of Ilias’ arm but his grip slipped. Ilias later lost sight of the boy. The other friend was rescued by another bystander.

The SCDF received a call for help at 3.45pm and the Dart team arrived at about 4.12pm. They found Putera 10 to 15 metres from the shoreline. According to a report from Meteorological Service Singapore, light to moderate showers were expected around the time the boys were in the water.

Putera’s mother was aware that her son had intended to go to Changi Beach with his friends, according to the coroner’s findings,

“He had called her earlier, but she missed his call. She returned the call and learnt that Putera had gone to Changi Bench with his friends,” the findings said.

The mother stated that her son was unable to swim but would usually go to a swimming pool to play.

SC Ponnampalam said those who are inexperienced with being in the waters at a beach would not realise that a seabed can dip without warning, "with the water levels suddenly rising above the head. It is quite unlike the bottom of a swimming pool, which deepens gradually. In this case, it appears that Putera and (his friend) lacked that awareness.

“It is important that our children and youth are educated both at home and at school about water safety and the dangers of playing, swimming, or even simply walking in the waters when they are at the beach.”

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