A safety expert has questioned the procedure and strategy used in the rescue mission of a drowning victim which claimed the lives of six firemen in Puchong, Selangor earlier this week.
Chairman of Peninsular Malaysia Oil and Gas Professional Association (PMOGPA) Marikh Azahari Ramli said the standard operating procedure (SOP) used may be suitable for other situations but not in a condition where the water current is strong, and especially at night.
“Based on the video recording, I saw the six men tied together with a rope and enter the pond where water was gushing in.
“I do not know what is the reason for the fire department to use this method,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
He explained that, based on his experience of more than 20 years in underwater operations, not all divers would be tied with the same safety rope.
“In our rescue operations, we only use one person. When one goes down to rescue, the other will watch the safety rope.
“When you assign one to take care of more than one person, the individual would not be able to control everyone,” he said.
The firemen were looking for a 17-year-old teenager who had fallen into the disused mining pool while fishing with friends on Wednesday.
The six from the department’s Water Rescue Unit drowned after one of them was reported to have slipped and dragged the rest of the rescuers into the whirlpool.
Azahari said six firemen being tied together with one rope actually increased the risk because if one slips, the others would get dragged in, especially when there is a whirlpool.
They were then brought up and given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) but to no avail.
Azahari explained his observation was not to dispute the firefighters’ ability but only to prevent another such tragedy.
“I understand it is unfair to dispute the firefighters’ SOP. But they should identify the dangers and assess possible risks,” he said.
Azahari who holds an international safety certificate said the rescue team should also consider the method and safety equipment.
He said all details should be inspected, for example, the depth of the pond, the current, weather and possible risks before coming up with a rescue strategy.
“The threats should be abolished or controlled. If it cannot be abolished or controlled, the rescue team should use other methods to avoid risks,” he said.
The 43-year-old said every diver should be given a safety helmet, knife to cut the rope, connection system and an oxygen tank. If in a dark area, the operation should be assisted with floodlights.
“Floodlights are very important. It is not just about safety but it could also give confidence to the rescuers when the operation is underway.
“The use of scuba equipment and other diving apparatus will help in avoiding cases of drowning and it could also assist respiration,” he added.
Azahari explained that based on his experience, a person cannot withstand a water current that is more than one knot.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad hoped rescue teams will increase effective exercises to avoid such incidents from recurring.
The Fire and Rescue Department deputy director Soiman Jahid also urged professionals, including diving experts to collaborate and share ideas on such rescue efforts.
Department director Mohamad Hamdan Wahid said the operation had compiled with all SOP but ended on a tragic note due to the challenging situation.
The six firemen were buried at their respective hometowns yesterday after being given a heroes’ send-off at the fire department in Shah Alam, Selangor.
The body of the missing 17-year-old was found several hours later. – TMI
Oct 4, Heroes – Six Firemen Drowned in Search-and-Rescue Op for Teen