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