Two rescue boards have been donated by an Australian paremedic and shire council in memory of the four Hiriya students and their principal who drowned on a September 10 school fisheries science excursion.
The long boards were arranged by a Lotus Special Casualty Access Team paramedic in cooperation with the New South Wales Sutherland Shire council. A report from Australian publication The Leader indicates that the boards were flown into Male’ on Wednesday, October 20 to support safety management practices on local beaches.
Australia is known globally for its surfing culture. Attached to that reputation is a savvy sense for water rescue. Australia’s own Surfers’ Medical Association (SMA) reportedly flies doctors and paramedics to Maldive islands twice each year, providing health workshops and medical equipment.
When four female students and the principal of Hiriya school drowned while on a fisheries science snorkeling trip off of Huraa island, awareness of the lack of school safety procedures and equipment was raised at the local and government levels.
The students were snorkeling in waters used by for national defense training, which are known for having very strong currents.
Although police and MNDF forces were called immediately to the site of the incident, they were criticised for being unable to reach the island until long after the critical moments.
Instead, the bodies of ninth grade students Nash-ath Saeed, Mariyam Naza, Aishath Saniha, Mariyam Shaiha and principal Ali Nazim were brought to Male’ on a speedboat from nearby Four Season Kuda Hura resort.
SMA member Paul Featherstone told The Leader that Huraa island had no rescue boards at the time of the Hiriya drowning, and he hoped the donation would make a difference in the future.
The SMA team is expected to deliver water safety and education advice from Sutherland Shire beach operation manager Brad Whittacker, along with the long boards. Paramedic Harry Gatt added that a meeting with the education minister has been scheduled to discuss risk management procedures.
“We really need to help educate them about water safety,” Mr Gatt was quoted as saying. “The community is just devastated by what happened.”