Singapore

Drowning inquest: Coroner warns of risks using pool after drinks

A Chinese national's first visit to Singapore with her childhood friend ended tragically when she drowned in a hotel pool after drinking whisky and beer, a coroner's court heard.

Ms Fan Xiaojing, 23, a cosmetics saleswoman at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, arrived here on May 4 with Ms Qi Yue. They stayed at Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay in River Valley Road.

They were having dinner at a bak kut teh restaurant opposite Clarke Quay when they befriended a group of four, including Taiwanese Tsai Tsung Ju, a fitness instructor at a local gym.

After dinner, Mr Tsai and the two women consumed a bottle of whisky and beer at VLV bar at Clarke Quay. They continued drinking when they returned to the hotel room at about 12.20am.

Mr Tsai and Ms Fan were at the reception on level 7 to ask for ice and a drinking glass when they found out that the swimming pool had closed for the day.

Despite this, Ms Fan decided to go to the pool after finishing another bottle of whisky with Mr Tsai.

Mr Tsai found her sitting by the side of the 1m to 1.2m-deep pool with her legs in the shallow area.

A hotel employee told them at 3.20am that the pool was closed. After he left, Ms Fan entered the pool, walking around its shallow areas. Mr Tsai joined her.

She then began moving towards the deeper end, holding onto the sides of the pool for support.

She asked Mr Tsai if he could swim, and he admitted to not being a good swimmer.

At this time, they had reached the middle of the pool which was 2.5m to 3.35m deep.

They realised that they could not touch the bottom with their feet. Ms Fan swam in an apparent bid to reach the opposite end of the pool.

Mr Tsai observed that Ms Fan had her own style of breaststroke and did not raise her head for air.

As he swam towards her, he saw that she was making erratic hand movements, as if trying to keep afloat. He tried to pull and push her towards the wall but failed. She grabbed him and pulled him underwater in a desperate bid to maintain buoyancy.

Oxygen-starved, Mr Tsai did not think he could salvage the situation alone and swam back towards the wall, and then left the pool to seek help.

One of two cleaners he approached followed him to the pool where Mr Tsai pointed at the motionless Ms Fan lying prone at the bottom of the pool.

Ms Fan was eventually pulled out and Mr Tsai performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on her. She died the next morning at Singapore General Hospital.

Giving his findings on Tuesday (Oct 17), after an inquest into her death, Coroner Marvin Bay said Ms Fan's impetus for entering the pool appeared to have resulted from her disinhibition and poor appraisal of risk after consuming a significant quantity of alcohol.

He found her death to be an "unfortunate misadventure". The very sad circumstances of her demise, he said, should underscore the enormous risk taken by pool users who consume alcohol before taking to the water.

courtCoroner's Inquirydrowning