New Straits Times

Inquest will answer questions

It is said that the SOP was adhered to by the rescue team, but questions remain about what really happened


LIVES of six young and able-bodied firemen have been lost in mysterious circumstan­ces when they were trying to locate the body of a teenager who drowned in a mining pool in Taman Putra Perdana, Puchong, in Selangor. Details are sketchy, and it is therefore unwise to draw any conclusion. Fire and Rescue Department director-general Mohammad Hamdan Wahid told the New Straits Times that the six divers were sucked into the vortex of a deadly whirlpool created by strong currents in the mining pool. Initial findings indicate that a floodwall in the area had failed to contain the gushing floodwater­s following heavy rain.

This much we know: this was no ordinary whirlpool. There is support for such a conclusion: Sepang police chief Assistant Commission­er Abdul Aziz Ali told this paper that investigat­ion showed that the six divers had gotten themselves entangled in a rope as they were being dragged by strong currents. Many questions are being asked by the people, and they need to be answered. The earlier we answer the questions the better the chance to kill speculatio­ns that are making the social media rounds. Besides, public confidence in public institutio­ns do require them to be answered. Family members of the dead divers may want to know the answers, too.

Why were the divers conducting the search at night when visibility was low? Why were they conducting the search so near the floodwall? Should they have known about the potential danger of whirlpools forming at floodwalls? How did the breathing apparatus come loose? Why were six divers harnessed to the rope? How did the divers get entangled in the harness they were wearing? An inquest can answer these and other questions, and we believe it to be the best forum, given the uncertaint­y surroundin­g the deaths. Also, an inquest can help uncover if there were or weren’t systemic defects involved, either in following the SOPs (standard operating procedure) or in the very SOPs themselves. An inquest too is necessary when multiple deaths, such as these, occur in similar circumstan­ces in one location.

As usual, in such circumstan­ces, speculatio­n will be rife. As responsibl­e citizens, we must refrain from speculatin­g. It not only clouds the investigat­ion, but hurts the feelings of loved ones. It is, of course, all right to seek answers, but to crowd social media with theories is not only inappropri­ate, but a careless disregard for the feelings of the bereaving families. Firemen have come to our rescue many times, for reasons small and big. They have saved us from the venomous bites of cobras. They have plucked us from ravines and dense jungles. They have rescued us from drowning. Yes, they have saved us from fires, too. In this time of sadness for the families of the six firemen, we must come together to share in their sorrow. With great sadness, we extend our condolence­s to the family of the six brave men and their colleagues.

Also, an inquest can help uncover if there were or weren’t systemic defects involved.

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