Singaporean woman drowns at Embudu Village Resort

A Singaporean woman on vacation with her husband at Embudu Village Resort died while snorkeling, the second such incident at the resort in the past three years.

The 34 year-old Singaporean, Irene Soon, drowned last Saturday (May 4) in a snorkelling accident at Embudu Village resort, located eight kilometres from Male’ in Kaafu Atoll.

Soon was snorkeling near the main jetty area of the resort and is believed to have drowned, however the case is still under investigation a police media official told Minivan News today (May 12).

Soon, an insurance manager, was vacationing with her husband in the Maldives to celebrate her recent promotion. Soon and her 37 year-old husband Mike Lie were snorkeling for the first time and taking photos with a rented underwater camera when the incident occurred, reported Singaporean publication the New Paper.

The publication claims that a dive instructor ran over after Soon had been pulled from the water and asked Lie how long she had been underwater. Allegedly Lie responded that he was unsure, but “maybe 10 minutes”.

Lie then asked the “Aren’t you going to CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or something?” at which point the dive instructor said “there was no point”, claims the publication.

“She was snorkeling with her husband, taking photographs then somebody saw her motionless, lifeless, in the water,” Embudu Village General Manager Ramsay Perera told Minivan News today.

“The dive instructor did give emergency care and performed CPR. She was then taken to ADK hospital via speed boat,” he claimed.

Perera explained that the dive school staff is “well equipped” and trained in CPR, however there is no in house doctor at the resort.

“The dive school staff are very observant most of the time. It was calm weather and very shallow water. She was briefed [about snorkeling safety] when she arrived at the resort and was wearing a life-jacket, snorkel and fins [when the incident occurred],” Perera said.

Snorkel at your own risk

After approximately an hour of snorkeling Lie decided to take a break because saltwater was “getting into his mask and nose”. Lie was standing in shallow water next to the resort’s pier watching his wife continue to snorkel and diverted his gaze for five minutes to watch a group of guests learning to scuba dive. When Lie looked back for his wife, she was nowhere to be seen.

“That was when I realised, ‘Oh my goodness,’ the weather is bad, cloudy and drizzling. I decided to swim out,” Lie said. “I was worried, I wanted to get her out of the weather and say it was time to go back.”

While Lie hurried to put his snorkelling gear back on to swim out and look for Soon, she was being pulled from the water by a German uncle and nephew, with her body face down on the seabed.

The German tourists noticed that Soon’s snorkeling tube was underwater and swam out to where she was floating.

“I was shocked, I wondered what I could do to save her. Her fingernails and toenails were purple. I tried calling her name, she didn’t answer. I frantically felt for her pulse, but there was none,” said Lie.

Soon was snorkeling in water about one metre deep. “It would have taken effort for her to stand with flippers on her feet and corals below,” explained Lie.

Soon was not a strong swimmer and her husband recalled swimming together fewer than 10 times in the last 12 years they had known each other. “She wouldn’t do laps, just short distances,” Lie recalled.

Lie said there no lifeguards were present at the Embudu Village beach, however he and his wife had been briefed about water safety upon their arrival at the resort. During the briefing, entry points into the water and coral bed areas were discussed, as well as advice not to swim too far away from shore. They were also told that “activities were carried out at their own risk”.

Lie returned to Singapore May 6 and Soon’s body arrived the morning of May 9. During her wake, Lie told Singaporean media that he regrets “taking his eyes off my wife.. or else, this might not have happened.”

Second death

Soon’s drowning is the second such incident at Embudu Village Resort. In February 2010, a 69 year-old German tourist died while snorkelling at the resort.

A senior staff member at Embudu Village told Minivan News at the time that the man was snorkeling with his friend.

”His friend noticed that he had been floating in the water without movement for a while and went to help him,” the staff member said at the time. ”When he shook him he did not move, so he knew that something was wrong. The sea was calm and there was low tide at the time.”

There have been a string of tourist deaths while snorkeling in recent years.

A 51 year-old Italian tourist died in a boat propeller accident while snorkeling in January of this year near Elaa Island in Thaa Atoll.

During 2012, tourist deaths – usually while snorkelling – were disproportionately higher among Chinese visitors, who now account for a majority of Maldives tourist arrivals compared to the country’s traditional European market.

Mohamed Ibrahim ‘Sim’ from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) pointed out in a 2012 interview with Minivan News that Chinese guests in particular needed to be made more aware of the dangers of snorkeling in the Maldives, “because it is a totally different environment than what they are used to.”

Many resorts and Chinese tour operators have reacted to the higher incidence of casualties by issuing life-jackets to Chinese guests on arrival. However, despite efforts to adapt to a market which in 2011 brought over 100,000 visitors to resort beaches and house reefs, Sim observed that “things still have not changed” as Chinese fatalities remain higher compared to European market.

Two Chinese nationals vacationing on two different resorts in the Maldives were found dead within 48 hours in suspected snorkeling accidents in 2012.

A Chinese woman identified as Shuhui Li, aged 58, was pronounced dead after she was pulled out from the waters of Lily Beach resort on January 26, 2012, while a Chinese man identified as Ding Hai, aged 30, was found dead whilst snorkeling at the newly-opened Ayada resort the following afternoon.

In October 2012, a 26 year-old male from China staying at Alif Dhaal Atoll Vakafaru resort was suspected to have died in a snorkelling accident at the property.

In December 2012, a Chinese tourist was reported missing from the Bandos Island Resort and Spa property.

Earlier in 2012, a French tourist, identified as 49 year-old Alan Marshall, went missing during a late afternoon swim while vacationing on Club Med Kanifinolhu resort with his wife, daughter and son-in-law. A day later he was found dead near Paradise Island Resort.

A 36 year-old Chinese tourist was also found dead off the coast of Sun Island Resort and Spa in January 2011.

In August 2011, a decomposing female body was found on the shore of the Adhaaran Hudhuranfushi resort, a week after a 29 year-old Japanese tourist and her 37 year-old husband were reported missing from the property.

On March 14, 2010 police received a report that a Chinese national, Rui Dai, died while snorkeling at Holiday Inn Kandooma Resort, in Kaafu Atoll.

Earlier that same month another Chinese man died while snorkeling at Chaaya Lagoon Hakurahura Island Resort, less than a day after a German tourist died in a snorkeling accident at Embudu Village Island Resort.

In mid-August 2010 a Chinese couple vacationing in the Maldives disappeared from their resort after going for a swim. The 38 year-old woman and 40 year-old man were staying with their 13 year-old daughter on the Hilton Irufushi Beach and Spa Resort in Noonu Atoll.

In September 2010 a 48-year old Chinese woman died while snorkeling at Paradise Island Resort and Spa.

A top UK transplant surgeon died while snorkeling on holiday at the Adaaran Meedhupparu Resort in Raa Atoll in September 2010.

The following month, Sharon Duval, a 42 year-old British woman died while on honeymoon. Her body was found on the shore of Kuredhoo Island Resort.


8 thoughts on “Singaporean woman drowns at Embudu Village Resort”

  1. Why can't we provide lifeguard services in country that's 99.9% water?

  2. ISSUE - tourist dies snorkeling in the Maldives.

    Is the resort legally at fault?
    No, given the number of repeat incidents most resorts now require their visitors to sign a disclaimer waiving any claim against the resort for swimming incidents.

    What say the parties?
    MATI advises making guests from the Chinese market aware of the dangers of swimming in the sea. The husband of the deceased accepts some responsibility on his part for failing to monitor his wife's activities more closely.

    My opinion?
    This is bad press for the Maldivian tourism industry. The regulator (Tourism Ministry) and industry NGO MATI should try and strengthen efforts to prevent repeat incidents whether by issuing guidelines on seaside security or conducting awareness campaigns about safe swimming practices.

  3. Go tsk tsk! Wreck the regime's tourist industry that can't provide lifeguards!

  4. I am one who goes snorkeling in Embudhoo all most every Morning when I was there. The east side of embudhoo from the entrance to south is one of lovely reef in South Male Atoll.

    Maldives has to season one is south east Monsoon last 4 Months and South west Monsoon 8 Months.

    When it begins south west monsoon,the entrance of East side of the Island is not safe for snorkeling.

    Form east to south it begins a tough current,even I my could not swim I am Maldivian and regular swimming since child hood.

    If get caught with sout west monsoon current in Emboodu east reef this will be the end of the Person.Will get drown how good you are in swimming cant challenge.

  5. She was briefed [about snorkeling safety] when she arrived at the resort and was wearing a life-jacket, snorkel and fins [when the incident occurred],” Perera said... This happened in 1 metre of calm water? As someone who has lots of snorkeling experience in The Maldives, not to mention scuba, I find this inexplicable(even if this was her first try at the sport)unless there was some medical condition present.

  6. hey this has nothing to do with the current Government ? It is impossible to keep a life guard for each and every single customer on the Island.

    Resort had done a proper briefing on snorkeling and swimming and the guest himself have some responsibilities also.

    Now in almost all the resorts there are life-jackets provided in the room too. This was introduced recently to minimize this kind of swimming accidents.

  7. There are people here commenting on the legal and commercial aspects of this very sad incident. I'd like to point out that, drowning is a very misunderstood fatality, among the general public. It's not the often perceived, shouting and kicking or frenzied activity that leads up to drowning. It's totally silent and quick.

    I quote from Wikipedia (

    "To an untrained observer, it may not be obvious that a drowning person is in distress – they may appear to be swimming safely while within 20–60 seconds of sinking under the surface. Drowning victims generally show no visible panic in their movements, because they quickly become incapable of making noticeable gestures or calling for help. They cannot kick their feet, nor swim to a rescuer, nor grasp a rope or other rescue equipment. They may be misunderstood as "playing in the water" by those unfamiliar with drowning, and other swimmers just meters away may not realize that an emergency is occurring.

    Lifeguards and other persons trained in rescue learn to recognize drowning people by watching for these instinctive actions."

    We, humans have an in-built mechanism called the "drowning response", which is totally involuntary and takes place without any conscious effort. It's very likely, that, as inexperienced swimmer, the lady panicked when salt water leaked into here mask. Her husband confirms that happened to him and that's why he took a break from swimming.

    In the panic, she may have struggled for air, and may have lead to the silent and fatal drowning response, which Lie, only a few metres away would never have heard or noticed. The question remains as to whether she was wearing a life jacket and what state that was in. These things are designed to keep a person afloat, and hard to defeat without effort.

    A very sad and untimely death of a young woman.

  8. first rule, order the swimmers and non-swimmers to have a clear check before they go for snorkeling, place as many lifeguards as you want to ensure safety


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