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Hongkonger dies after early morning dive in Malaysia

Local professional instructor says dive site off Sipadan Island is only for the most experienced

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 3:37pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 6:13pm

A Hong Kong tourist died during an early morning dive off Malaysian’s Sipadan Island on Sunday, according to local media reports.

Ng Chi-ming disappeared after diving with 10 others from a diving company at around 6.40am at Barracuda Point off the eastern Malaysian island in Sabah, the country’s New Straits Times reported.

Ng, understood to be in his 50s, was found two hours later at 8.55am, and his body brought to a hospital in Semporna, some 35 kilometres from the island.

The divemaster, an organiser of recreational dives, searched for Ng for about 45 minutes after discovering someone from the group was missing, local media said.

Authorities were notified at 8.15am, and Sabah Parks – the statutory authority overseeing the island – requested search assistance from the Malaysian army.

District police chief superintendent Peter Umbuas said the body was sent to Tawau General Hospital for a postmortem. The examination was to be conducted on Monday.

Li Kin-kwong, a professional diving instructor in Hong Kong for over 30 years, said Barracuda Point was typically set aside for certified divers and only recommended for those with extensive experience.

“It’s definitely for experienced divers,” he said. “For diving safety, I would say the diver has got to be certified, and the diver should appropriately select the dive site based on his or her experience.”

Li, who said he had dived at Barracuda Point over 500 times, said the area where the incident took place had strong currents almost daily.

He added that divemasters were responsible for reviewing their participants’ qualifications and experience before allowing them to join a group excursion.

“Diving safety is number one,”he said. “If the diver is not that experienced or not that fit, the divemaster shouldn’t take [the person] with the group.”

Sipadan Island is Malaysia’s only oceanic island, meaning it rises above the ocean seabed. It is popular among divers and home to over 3,000 species of fish.

On Monday afternoon, a Hong Kong Immigration Department spokesman said the office was working with the foreign ministry and China’s consular staff in Malaysia to contact Ng’s family and provide any necessary assistance.

He added the department would continue to “actively follow up on the incident”.