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Tragedy at Port Dickson International Triathlon: Two Participants Drown

Two men drowned while competing in the 2018 Port Dickson Triathlon, a rather well-known sporting event among athletes, held over the weekend. Around 8am yesterday, 15 July, reports were pouring in over the death of a 39-year-old Penangite, Tharm Wei Wong, a participant who went missing when he was carrying out the swimming challenge at Port Dickson beach. Tharm was a well-known face among the triathlon community, an active participant in marathons, swimathons, and triathlons.

Image credit: Malaysiakini

News Straits Times reported the Port Dickson district police deputy chief, Superintendent Mod Faisal Mohd Noor saying in a statement:

The victim is believed to have drowned while he was performing the 750-metre swimming event. Fire and Rescue personnel (located the victim and) performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him, but there was no response.

Athlete and fitness coach, Karen Siah E-Ling was devastated by the news of Tharm’s passing as she has known him for a few years, since she started her journey to becoming an Ironman. The 31-year-old said:

It was 2014, when Kelvin (as we know him) Tharm and a few other friends signed up and participated in Ironman Langkawi. They all inspired me to do the same the next year. Kelvin is the most cheerful and warm person you’ll ever meet in the triathlon arena. He’s a big time fitness junkie, being a bootcamp instructor and an avid endurance race competitor. He would always encourage and motivate everyone around him. It was in his blood to be a motivator. As far as I know, he was a decent swimmer and I think the triathlon community in Malaysia has just lost a very dear friend.

While this was unfolding, Negeri Sembilan Fire and Rescue Department director, Norazam Khamis, received reports of another participant who went missing while carrying out the same event. This morning, reports emerged that 42-year-old foreigner from Hong Kong, Yuen Chi Yuen, was found. Norazam said:

We received a report from the organiser at 11.55am, saying that another participant has failed to report himself to the secretariat and upon receiving the report, we activated a search and rescue mission.

Image credit: The Star Online

Yuen’s wife lodged a police report with organisers when she didn’t find him at the beach area, in their hotel room, and dining area. His bicycle which was meant to be used at the next stage of the event was also not used and his water bottle was still full, all of which were indications that he didn’t make it to the cycling event.

Search and rescue efforts were carried out and was later extended five kilometres from the spot where Yuen disappeared, involving 20 personnel. from the Negeri Sembilan Fire and Rescue team. Those involved in the search were firefighters, Water Rescue Team, Marine Police, Malaysian Civil Defence Force personnel, and the Port Dickson Municipal Council.

Yuen Chi Yuen. Image credit: Top Pick

The team found Yuen’s body after a fisherman notified them around 7.52am on today, 16 July. A state spokesman said his remains were found near Pulau Karang, approximately one nautical mile from where he went missing.

With some parties claiming the tragedies were caused by the organiser’s negligence, Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar, Aminuddin Harun, clarified the matter, explaining that the organisers changed the swimming event route to a safer one after realising the sea was turbulent earlier in the morning. He was quoted in The Star Online saying:

The security aspect carried out by the organisers has been enhanced compared to the previous edition and it has also obtained the approval of the Fire and Rescue Department. But today’s tragedy is unpredictable because as we know it is a challenging sport with risks that have to be taken into consideration.

The Port Dickson International Triathlon has been going on since 1996, with Malaysia’s Ironman Mohamad Razani Hussain winning the inaugural edition. This latest accident shocked many as it is a widely regarded event among the triathlon community.

Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman made his way to the scene as soon as soon as news broke, where he met Tharm’s family at the forensic unit of the Port Dickson Hospital. He also announced that a committee would be set up to look into Tharm’s death and that the committee would be headed by the ministry’s secretary-general, Lokman Hakim Ali, which will look into any breach of conditions or laws.

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