Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

Diving superintendent gets 2 years' jail for safety lapses that led to diver's death

SINGAPORE – A diving superintendent of a ship cleaning company was sentenced to two years’ jail on Wednesday (May 19) over the death of a diver under his watch.

Mohd Zalkarnain Mohd Salleh, 55, had endorsed the plan of having two divers working underwater at the same time despite knowing that it was not safe.

He also failed to monitor the video feed of freelance commercial diver Seet Choon Heng, and did not notice his repeated cries for help.

Zalkarnain pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of aiding diving supervisor Raden Roslan Mohd in causing the death of Mr Seet and another count of forging his credentials to secure his job.

Raden was sentenced to 12 months’ jail in June last year for rash acts causing the death of Mr Seet.

Though qualified as a diver, Zalkarnain had forged documents to get the job of diving superintendent at Mola Subsea Services in late 2017.

On May 5, 2018, Mr Seet dived underwater at around noon to clean a part of the ship’s stern under Raden’s instruction.

Shortly after, Raden told a second diver to enter the water to polish the ship’s propeller. This meant that there were no divers on standby to help the two underwater if they ran into trouble.

While Mr Seet was still underwater, Raden turned down his radio so he could hear the other diver more clearly.

At around 1.40pm, Zalkarnain turned his back to the screen monitoring the divers to discuss the next part of the dive plan with Raden.

He did this despite knowing that it put both divers at risk of death as they could be pulled away by a current, or their communication cables could be severed.

It was at this juncture that Mr Seet realised he could not ascend to the surface as his communication cord was entangled with the seabed.

He repeatedly called for help over the intercom for about a minute, but there was no response.

He then removed his helmet and tried to swim to the surface but to no avail. Mr Seet struggled for around 45 seconds before he ran out of air and sank to the sea floor.

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Close to six minutes had passed after Mr Seet called for help before Zalkarnain noticed that his video feed had gone black.

As there was no diver on standby for immediate rescue, Raden instructed the other diver who was underwater to look for Mr Seet, but he could not be found.

By this time, the Maritime and Port Authority had learnt of Mr Seet’s disappearance and ordered the crew to stop all diving operations.

At around 6.30pm on May 7, two days after Mr Seet’s disappearance, his body was found in the sea off Sentosa, near where he had gone missing.

On Wednesday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Chong sought at least two years and three months’ jail for Zalkarnain to signal that his cavalier attitude to life and safety should not be tolerated.

“By failing to deploy the necessary safety personnel and failing to intervene when Raden left the deceased unmonitored, Zalkarnain put it out of his power entirely to detect the deceased’s distress and effect a timely rescue,” Mr Chong said.

Zalkarnain’s lawyer, Mr Muslim Albakri, said in mitigation that Zalkarnain had played no part in Raden turning off Mr Seet’s radio feed, and that the simultaneous dive was the fault of the whole team.

“His mistakes were borne out of genuine errors of judgment. He has cooperated fully with the authorities and is truly remorseful,” Mr Muslim said.

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