Diver's death ruled a tragic misadventure
Stingray that killed Underwater World Singapore diver last year had adapted well to environment
The leopard whiptail stingray that killed an Underwater World Singapore (UWS) senior diver last year had never displayed aggressive behaviour and had adapted well to its environment.
But when Mr Philip Chan Kum Weng, 62, and other divers tried to catch it around 2pm on Oct 4, it attacked him suddenly with the venomous barb near the base of its tail.
In an inquiry into Mr Chan's death yesterday, the court heard that the 22.5cm-long barb pierced his chest, and he was pronounced dead about 1½ hours later.
State Coroner Marvin Bay, who found his death to be a tragic misadventure, said: "As stingrays are generally shy creatures, their initial reaction to a threat would be to swim away. Cornered or surprised, rays would nevertheless resort to attacking a perceived threat."
Mr Chan, who worked for UWS for 26 years, and his fellow divers had been tasked to move the stingray after the Sentosa attraction closed its doors last June.
It was one of four leopard whiptail stingrays that had to be transported to Malaysia on Oct 7. The other three were successfully herded into a tank, and Mr Chan and the team proceeded to herd the fourth to a shallower area so it could be caught with a net.
Suddenly, Mr Chan shouted and collapsed. Sensing that he was in distress, the other divers lifted him out of the tank and called emergency services.
As they cut his wet suit, they noticed the barb with serrated edges protruding out of Mr Chan's chest.
Paramedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived at the scene soon afterwards, and he was taken to Singapore General Hospital, where he died.
The former regional general manager of Haw Par Leisure, which owned the attraction, told the court yesterday the company had no specific procedures on handling animals as it depended on factors such as the condition of the creatures and their environment.
Mr Kwek Meng Tiam, who left the firm on Oct 31 last year, added that he was not aware if Mr Chan was overworked and no one had raised such an issue with him.
Coroner Bay said: "Animal handlers must maintain a state of complete mindfulness, care and focus when handling a wild animal.
"It should be evident from Mr Chan's case... that expertise, skill and experience will not invariably insulate an individual from such animal-inflicted harm."