Dragon boat tragedy: Volatile water currents due to full moon, inquest hears

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 03 Nov 2010

GEORGE TOWN: The water currents off Macallum Street Ghaut where the dragon boat training was conducted was volatile due to the approaching full moon, an inquest heard Wednesday.

Indonesian Saiful Azhar, 49, who has worked and stayed on board a ship moored near the site of the tragedy for the past 11 years, testified he had personally experienced the unpredictable changes in climate and water currents.

He said the tides, irrespective of high or low, would be at their highest, especially on that day as it was approaching full moon.

"I remember the water was ebbing swiftly on that day. And since it was approaching full moon, water currents would be swift, irrespective of whether it was rising or ebbing," he told the Coroner’s Court, which is conducting an inquest into the dragon boat tragedy on Jan 17 which killed five students and a teacher from Chung Ling High School here.

The six, who were among 18 people on board the boat, drowned after the vessel capsized in the sea off Macallum Street Ghaut here.

He recalled on that tragic day, the waves were not strong and the water was fine when he was on his way to buy breakfast and cigarettes.

"I took a motorboat to go to the shore and everything was fine then. I was travelling with two other colleagues via Sungai Pinang river to reach the shore.

"But on my way back at about 9am, I could sense the currents were swift while the wind had started to blow strongly,” he said.

Saiful, from Bandar Aceh, said he was about to tie his boat to the ship using a rope before he noticed several students waving frantically out at sea.

"I immediately rushed to the site which was about 50m away. I managed to pull seven of them to safety before sending them to shore,” he added.

A total of 28 witnesses are scheduled to testify before Coroner Noor Aini Yusof in the four-day inquest.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Suhaimi Ibrahim, Tan Guat Cheng and Pang Chuin Keat assisted in the inquest while counsels Tham Shein Shyong and Lau Jun Yi represented the school.

More to come

Related Stories: Inquest told why many ignored safety ruling Dragon boat tragedy: Boat swerved suddenly to the left, inquest told

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