[top photo: Pulau Tioman seen in this file picture, is a popular snorkelling and diving destination.]
By Teh Jen Lee and Liew Hanqing
A WOMAN died in a scuba diving accident at Pulau Tioman last Saturday, just days into the new diving season.
She had just finished a second dive at Malang Rock with a group of leisure divers.
This popular scuba diving and snorkelling spot known locally as Batu Malang is a collection of boulders off the north-west coast of Tioman.
It is believed that the woman, a Japanese national, who's an advanced certified diver in her 30s, was hit by the propeller blades of a boat.
According to a Tioman dive centre operator who had heard of the accident, the woman suffered cuts to her neck and chest area.
It is not clear why she had gone back into the water after the dive, or why she was still in the water.
A representative from the dive centre which organised the dive told The New Paper that it could not reveal details as investigations are ongoing.
'It's a boat accident, not a dive accident. We can't give a statement yet,' said the man who gave his name only as Jackie.
The accident has set local Internet sites like Fins Online, a diving forum, abuzz.
A netizen also posted a notice on social networking site Facebook reporting the incident, which had been related to him by a fellow dive instructor.
He wrote: 'As a usual practice, the dive master waited for all the divers to board the boat before exiting himself.
'Upon getting on the boat, he did a quick check and the victim's buddy said she had removed her gear and moved into the boat.'
According to the notice, the weather at the time was clear, and there was a slight current.
'When the (dive master) was removing his gear, someone shouted, and they found the diver in the water, already hit by the (boat's) propeller,' the netizen wrote.
Tried to stop bleeding
He added that the dive master immediately jumped in to rescue the woman and managed to get her out of the water. They performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and tried to stop her bleeding. But she reportedly died before receiving medical attention.
The netizen who posted the notice on Facebook told The New Paper he had been informed of the incident by the dive centre.
He said: 'This is a pretty sensitive issue, especially for the dive centre. They are currently preparing the report (on the incident).'
A similar accident occurred last June at Pulau Dayang, an island near Tioman. A male Singaporean diver died after he was hit by a boat's propeller while he was coming up from a dive.
A licensed dive travel operator looked at possible scenarios of what could have gone wrong in Saturday's incident.
'It's possible that after giving back her dive gear, she could have slipped from the rope along the boat and drifted to the back of the boat,' said Mr Eric Leong, who an advanced diver of 12 years.
However, it's supposed to be unlikely for divers to get cut because boats should be put in idle mode while picking up divers.
'It will not cut anybody unless somebody hit the forward drive button, or reverse.
'Given that the last person to get out was the dive master, that means the engine was probably not active at all.'
It was also unlikely that she fell into the water after surfacing because people would have seen it happening.
'There could have been another boat that she got cut by as she was surfacing.
'It's also unlikely that she was in the water to pee (a common practice for female divers after a dive) because when people go into the water to do so, they will give a shout.
'It boils down to every party - responsible boatmen, responsible dive guides and responsible divers - looking out for one another.
'The most dangerous part is the propeller at the back of the boat - people should never get close to it,' he said.
He suggested that one way to avoid accidents like this is to deploy a surface marker buoy before surfacing, so that boats can avoid divers coming to the surface.
After checking the tidal currents calendar, he added that it's possible that the divers' guard was down because conditions were ideal on the day of the accident.
Mr Leong said he checked with a dive operator in Tioman who confirmed that the sea was flat at the time.
While asking about the Malang accident, Mr Leong said he found out about another dive accident in Salang, Tioman.
'Today, there was another accident, where a girl of unknown nationality was very badly cut. It could have been a propeller, or a bad brush against corals.
'I'm not sure if there was a Singapore connection but accidents in Malaysia are often discussed in forums here,' said Mr Leong, who returned from a photography dive trip to the Philippines yesterday.
The officer-in-charge of the police district of Mersing told The New Paper over the phone of the Malang Rock accident: 'We assisted in getting the body to be sent to Mersing Hospital and we informed the Pahang police, since the incident happened in Tioman which is under their jurisdiction.
'The victim was Japanese national in her 30s. I was informed that the embassy representative turned up,' said the officer, Mr Mohd Nor Rasid.
The New Paper understands that a post-mortem was being carried out.
This article was first published in The New Paper.