Two divers from city drown in Philippines

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 March, 2009, 12:00am

Two veteran divers from Hong Kong drowned and another was injured over the weekend in the Philippines' Cebu province.

The dead divers, identified as Pang Chi-lung, 44, and Joanne Cheung Wai, 28, were both licensed. They arrived, with diving equipment, in the Philippines on Friday as part of a group of six people from Hong Kong.

They left the Paradive H.K. Scuba Diving Resort in Punta Engano, Lapu-Lapu city, where they were staying with other divers in a group, at around 10am on Sunday, said Julius Bolado, of the homicide section of the city police. They rented a boat to take them to Olango island with diving instructor Cheung Hung-kam, who is also from Hong Kong.

Pang, who held a Canadian passport, and Joanne Cheung, who held a US passport, descended to a depth of 40 metres immediately after arriving off Barangay Tingo.

When they failed to resurface after 30 minutes other divers went down to search for them, a local report said.

The pair were found floating unconscious metres away from their dive spot a few minutes into the search. They were rushed to Mactan Doctors Hospital where they were declared dead on arrival, Mr Bolado said.

Another male diver from Hong Kong, who also had trouble in the water, was saved. He suffered injuries but they were not life-threatening.

Mr Bolado said the instructor had told investigators that the two probably failed to check their air indicators while they were diving and ran out of air. He said the incident seemed to be an accident.

Their bodies were taken to a funeral home in Lapu-Lapu city on Sunday afternoon. Autopsies will be conducted.

Dive spots around Olango island are popular with tourists looking for close encounters with reef sharks. But locals say the currents can be extremely strong and caves can prove a challenge.

Curly Wong Fan-tai, director of the Hong Kong Underwater Association, said the private group comprised veteran divers who held technical diving qualifications, meaning they were able to dive deeper than 40 metres in complex underwater landscapes, such as wrecks and caves. He said the weather was good at the time of the tragedy.

The other members of the group planned to return to Hong Kong yesterday.

Mr Wong said the victims' family members had gone to the island.

An Immigration Department spokesman said it had learned of the case through the Chinese consulate in Cebu. It was in contact with the families of the victims and would provide any possible assistance.

Pacific Oceans Sports Centre, a diving school in Jordan, where the instructor worked, did not comment.