Mersing (Malaysia) (AFP), April 9 – A Dutch teenager was killed when a group he was diving with off the Malaysian coast went missing, officials said on Saturday following the dramatic rescue of his father and two others.
The three Europeans and their instructor got into trouble on Wednesday after resurfacing from a dive near a southern island but could not find their boat.
A Briton, Adrian Chesters, 46, and Frenchwoman Alexia Molina, 18, were discovered by fishermen in the waters of neighboring Indonesia, picked up by maritime police and brought back to Malaysia.
But Chesters told officials his son, Nathen, 14, who holds Dutch nationality, had died.
The teenager, “due to being too weak…was unable to survive,” a Coast Guard statement said, quoting the father.
Police earlier said the search for the boy had been called off after concluding he had floated in Indonesian waters, and they had informed their counterparts in the archipelago nation.
In recent days, Malaysia had deployed helicopters, a plane, boats, divers and jet skiers to hunt over a wide area.
The instructor, Norwegian Kristine Grodem, had already been rescued in the waters off southern Malaysia on Thursday.
The other two survivors were found about 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of the Indonesian island of Bintan, having drifted about 130 kilometers from where they dived.
The couple were admitted to a Malaysian hospital in stable condition, local police chief Cyril Edward Nuing said in the coastal town of Mersing, the base of the search operations.
– ‘Strong girl’ –
Authorities did not give details of how the rescued trio survived a long period adrift at sea and said they had not yet been interviewed in detail about their ordeal.
Previously, officials had expressed hope that the divers would be found alive as they had substantial experience and were well equipped, including with a dive buoy.
They also said that the light rains of the past few days could have helped divers survive by providing them with drinking water.
On Thursday, the French teenager’s mother, Esther Molina, told AFP from Mersing that the family “hoped for the best. She’s a strong girl, she’s going to kick ass.
Grodem was instructing divers near a small island, Tokong Sanggol, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) off the southeast coast of Malaysia when the accident happened.
After a dive of about 40 minutes, they resurface but do not find their boat. They drifted together in strong currents, but eventually separated.
The captain of the boat that took them to the dive site was arrested after testing positive for drugs.
The area where the accident happened is popular with foreign and domestic visitors – beach resorts dot the coast and the islands.
Diving accidents, although rare, do occasionally occur in Malaysia.
In 2013, a British tourist died when she was struck by the propeller of a passing boat as she dived off islands in the South China Sea.
Borders in the tropical Southeast Asian nation reopened to foreign tourists on April 1 after a two-year coronavirus closure, and thousands of visitors have arrived.