A Norwegian diving instructor has been rescued after a night spent drifting in the South China Sea off Malaysia – but her three European trainees, including a 14-year old boy and his British father, are still missing.
A large-scale search and rescue operation is continuing for the boy, Nathen Renze Chesters, whose nationality was given as Dutch, his father Adrian Peter Chesters, 46, and 18-year-old French woman Alexia Alexandra Molina.
The group had been boat-diving yesterday (6 April) on what is thought to have been part of an Advanced Open Water course off Pulau Tokong Sanggol. The island lies about 16km off the south-eastern mainland town of Mersing, from where the boat is thought to have departed, and the dive-site was around 15m deep.
The instructor, Kristen Grodem, 35, was spotted by the crew of a boat at around noon local time today, more than 40km from where the group had gone missing. She was picked up by a Coast Guard helicopter and taken to hospital for treatment, but was said to be in good health.
Grodem later said that she had lost sight of the other three scuba divers after strong underwater currents had carried the group a long way from their boat.
The Coast Guard in the state of Johor said that the training dive had started at around noon yesterday but the skipper had not raised the alarm until 2.30pm. The search began immediately and continued until having to be halted as night fell, resuming in the early hours of today.
The missing divers are thought to have been tourists – Malaysia reopened to overseas visitors only at the start of April after an enforced two-year closure for Covid-19, so they would have been among the first holiday-makers to return to the country.
The Mersing-based search involves two Coastguard and Royal Malaysian Police aircraft and four of their boats, along with some 14 other vessels, covering a search area of 370sq km. Water Rescue Team divers have searched the dive-site.
The skipper, a man in his 20s, was later detained by Mersing police after testing positive for drugs. The police said that they would be carrying out an investigation into the dive operation and what exactly had happened at sea.