Your chest burns, screaming for air. You open your mouth instinctively, only to gulp in water. Your nose attempts to help, but the water is relentless in depriving you of oxygen. Your eyes close; your heart races, then stops.
Is this how drowning would feel like? We wouldn’t know, but six-year-old Sherlyn Ler knew, and she didn’t live to tell the story.
On this new chapter of ‘Once upon a time’, equip yourselves with a tower of tissues. It’s about to get tragic.
Once upon a time, a petite girl pranced excitedly to her swimming lesson at Kallang Basin Swimming Complex, her mother trailing behind her.
The 1.11m tall girl splashed about at the edge of the teaching pool, her head well above the 0.8m deep waters.
Her mother seated herself close to the swimming pool, monitoring her lesson. But with the comforting presence of a coach and a small class of five, there was hardly cause for worry.
Except there was.
Swimming at the Deep End
While her mother bade time with her phone and conversations, the coach went ahead to place her child in 1m deep waters at the middle of the pool. With a measly paddle board as aid, Mr Yeo Chwee Chuan set the girl swimming.
What he didn’t know as he left her to her own devices and headed back to the edges of the pool, was that she would start struggling.
In the span of a whole four minutes between Sherlyn’s life and death, her surroundings remained serene, her fight against the waters muted.
There were three lifeguards that fateful day — one at the teaching pool. In the minutes before the disaster, Mr Firdaus Rajatmarican was captured on camera face down, phone in hand.
Having headed to the toilet, Mr Law Kum Wah relieved Mr Firdaus’ position. Mr Law got to work arranging chairs at the open seating area.
Two lifeguards, a coach, and a mother — all remained tragically, blissfully unaware of the girl as the water swallowed her whole.
The moment that marked the dawn of realisation couldn’t even be credited to them. Instead, it was a completely unrelated group of children who had to shout explicitly, “Help!” That shout shouldn’t have to be sounded out to receive attention.
Attempting too late to salvage the situation, the coach and lifeguard pulled the girl up and performed CPR. There was no coughing up of water, no relief. The girl was rushed to the hospital.
After 20 agonising days with hope glimmering and fading, the girl passed away.
What happened to the four adults with their slipshod supervision? Obviously, the lifeguards were stripped of their job, and the coach was suspended of his license.
But not after being harshly rebuked. While the lifeguards were criticised for being distracted, the coach was reprimanded for letting several kids out of his line of sight — “at several points in time”.
So don’t put yourself in a situation where you may drown, or put others in it. If you really must head to the pool, consider bringing a car full of floaties and snorkelling gear — just in case.
And please, keep that phone away.
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