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April 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 48, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Boy Dies When Trainee Divers Go Missing

from the April, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A 14-year-old boy died after he and a group of trainee open water divers, and their instructor, were abandoned at sea by their dive boat and drifted for more than two days. Unable to swim back to the boat because of strong currents, the group went missing on April 6, off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

They had been undergoing an open water course off the island of Tokong Sanggai, 10 miles from the town of Mersing, from where the boat had initially departed. The dive started around noon, but the boat's skipper failed to raise the alarm for two-and-a-half hours after they were due to surface. He was later arrested after testing positive for methamphetamine.

A large-scale sea search was undertaken, leading to the recovery first of Norwegian dive guide Kristen Grodem, 35, who was found by a passing tugboat in the South China Sea, more than 25 miles from where the group first entered the water. A helicopter picked her up. The search for her missing trainees, the Dutch boy, Nathan Chesters, his British father, Adrian Chesters, plus an 18-year-old French woman, Alexia Molina involved a military plane, helicopters, boats, and jet skiers.

Thanks to a functioning dive light, two and a half days later, a fisherman found Molina and Andrian Chesters, without his son, 50 miles from where they started. They continued to search for the boy, but Chesters told the Malaysian Coast Guard that his Dutch son Nathen had become too weak to hold out and died while they were adrift. Andrian Chesters and Molina were reported to be in stable condition.

Malaysia reopened to overseas visitors at the start of April after an enforced two-year closure for Covid-19, so these divers were among the first visitors to the country. There are several dive centers on the small islands around Mersing, which is also the jumping-off point for Tioman island.

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