A trip to Desaru took a dramatic turn for a Singaporean father-of-two who became an accidental hero after saving five Malaysian teenagers from drowning.
The incident, which happened on September 9, is forever imprinted in the mind of the man, surnamed Xie, reported Shin Min Daily News.
In an interview published on Saturday (Nov 19), the 45-year-old self-employed man and his wife, surnamed Li, recounted how they had brought their two daughters to the Johor coastal resort area during the September school holidays.
The family had intended to visit the popular Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast but had arrived before the park’s opening hours.
To while away the time, they decided to travel a little further up and take a stroll along the scenic Tanjung Balau beach located about a 45-minute drive away.
They were walking on a bridge that stretched over the sea in Tanjung Balau at about 8.40am when they heard a commotion.
Li, 43, told Shin Min Daily News that she saw a large group of 30 to 40 people gathered on the beach, shouting.
She also saw five or six teenagers in the sea from a distance but initially thought they were simply play-fighting.
She realised that the situation was serious when she observed one of the swimmers disappearing underwater.
“We saw that nobody standing on the shore was doing anything, so my husband took off his shirt and jumped into the water to save them,” said Li.
She shared that three girls in the water were holding on to a life buoy, while two others who were struggling — a boy and a girl — were separated from the group.
Xie swam towards them and pulled them back towards the beach.
Li shared that a distance from shore, a group of students had gotten hold of a boat and were using makeshift wooden planks as oars in their attempt to reach the teenagers.
With the students’ help, they managed to pull the two teens into the boat, whereupon one of them performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the boy.
Xie then swam back to the three girls who were holding on to the life buoy and guided them to the boat. Xie also assisted in pulling the boat back up to shore.
Emergency rescue personnel later arrived and sent the boy to hospital, Li shared.
Unfortunately, Xie found out later from one of the rescued teenagers that there was another girl in the group who was missing.
He immediately felt a pang of guilt, reported Shin Min Daily News.
“For the rest of our trip, he was very down and said that he should have jumped in earlier to save them,” shared Li.
“I could only comfort him by saying that he’d done his best,” she added.
The body of the missing 13-year-old girl was found later that afternoon in waters off Kota Tinggi, The Star reported on Sept 9.
The report added that two teenagers aged 12 and 14 were unconscious when they were rescued and received respiratory treatment from rescue personnel before being taken to a nearby clinic. The three other survivors were also sent to the clinic subsequently.
According to locals whom the couple talked to following the incident, the area has seen several drowning cases and that beachgoers there are usually not strong swimmers.
An individual whom Xie and Li spoke to said that one person had previously died after attempting to rescue a swimmer who was struggling.
Li added that the sea can be dangerous due to the strong undercurrents.
She shared that Xie used to play water polo and is a strong swimmer, which was why he’d jumped in without hesitation.