FEATURES

10 October 2018

A Harrowing Escape

SPF Logo By Irwan Shah (Photos: Police Coast Guard)

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9 July 2018 would be a memorable night for the 45 passengers and crew of an Indonesia flagged ferry, Sri Kandi 99, which ran aground in Singapore waters. The ferry was bound for Pasir Gudang, Johor, when it was stranded near Pulau Tekong after colliding with rocks along the island during low tide. Owing to the swift rescue efforts by the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Police Coast Guard (PCG), all 45 of them were rescued and made it to their destination safely.

PCG’s Station Inspector (SI) Lee Kuan Seng, Crew Commander of patrol boat PT 78, was conducting their routine patrol when he spotted a vessel entering Singapore territorial waters and heading towards Pulau Tekong. What followed was a night of intense action which saw 15 PCG officers in three vessels conducting a delicate rescue operation in pitch darkness!

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As SI Lee’s boat approached the vessel, he realised that the ferry had ran aground and was at risk of capsizing. The first thing that came to his mind was to quickly rescue as many people as possible while waiting for reinforcements. Using night vision equipment and searchlights, he and his team scanned the ferry and waters to ascertain the number of passengers on board and to ensure that there was no one in the pitch dark waters.

“My first concern was to see whether there was anyone in the water. We moved our vessel closer to the sinking ferry to take a closer look but we had to be careful not to run aground ourselves due to the rocks near the shore,” explained SI Lee on the complexity of the situation.

Seeing that five passengers were trapped at the stern of the ferry, SI Lee called out to them to find out why they had remained on board while the rest had gone ashore. The five passengers then informed SI Lee that they were unable to swim and did not know how to get off the vessel. Upon knowing their predicament, SI Lee then instructed his crew to carefully align their vessel to the sinking ferry to allow the five passengers to walk over his vessel safely.

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“We had to ensure that our vessel was close enough for the five individuals to walk over safely,” exclaimed SI Lee.

SI Lee shared that the operation was very challenging as they were operating in low visibility and had to also ensure that they themselves would not get grounded. The operation was further complicated by the fact that the accident occurred on reclaimed land which meant that land reinforcements would not be available as land vehicles could not directly access the area.

Meanwhile, the PCG officers who were deployed on the two rescue vessels arrived and attended to the remaining 40 victims who made it to shore. Two men sustained light injuries while the rest, especially the elderly victims, were shivering from the cold. Some of the victims were still crying as they were in a state of shock.

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“While some of us assured them that they were in safe hands, calmed their nerves and distributed rations to them, a group of officers were focussed on coordinating the evacuation efforts,” Staff Sergeant Muhammad Ramdan Ismail recounted.

Thanks to the PCG officers’ swift response and excellent teamwork during the rescue mission, all 45 passengers and crew members had a harrowing escape!

Last Updated on 11 October 2018