Angler killed by lightning strike: Coroner

He had taken shelter under a tree and had fishing rod with him
Khushwant Singh Straits Times 21 Feb 12;

TWO dispatch riders decided to spend their day off on a Saturday last year to fish on Coney Island.

When it started raining at 2pm, they sought shelter under a tree 20m from the shoreline. A little while later, one of the two felt a sharp pain and lost consciousness.

When he came round, he was unable to move his body and had difficulty breathing. The other angler, Mr Tan Guan Yin, 40, was lying motionless nearby and was unresponsive to attempts to rouse him.

His friend Eng Yang Huat, 41, used his cellphone to call a fellow angler for help at 5pm. The friend drove down and managed to find him, before seeking help from the Lorong Halus Power Station Depot. A staff member there called for an ambulance.

Paramedics could not detect any pulse on Mr Tan and he was declared dead. Mr Eng was semi-conscious and taken to Changi General Hospital. He has since recovered.

Yesterday, State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid agreed with police findings that Mr Tan was killed by lightning while out fishing on Nov 19 last year.

Police sergeant Eddie Kong said at the inquiry that Mr Tan and Mr Eng had their fishing rods with them and were standing near other fishing equipment.

They had also taken shelter under a tree when the thunderstorm hit Coney Island that afternoon.

Investigations revealed that Mr Tan, a bachelor who lived alone in a three-room flat in Yishun, was an introvert. His brother had introduced him to fishing and it quickly became his favourite pastime.

On that Saturday, Mr Tan and Mr Eng had parked their motorcycles at the end of Lorong Halus in Pasir Ris at about noon. They crossed over at low tide and climbed a series of wave breakers and a metal railing that cordoned off the shoreline of Coney Island.

They also disregarded notices that warned against trespassing on state land.

The court heard that given that Singapore is one of the lightning capitals of the world, a knowledge of safeguards can save lives.

The coroner said it would be good for people to be aware of defensive measures, such as not holding metal objects and not seeking shelter under tall trees during a thunderstorm.

Singapore has an average of 186 days of lightning a year and each sq km of land here can be struck up to 16 times a year.

The Republic has an average of 0.35 lightning death per million people each year, compared with 0.2 in Britain and 0.6 in the United States.

The months of April, May and November are the most lightning-prone because of the intense inter-monsoon weather conditions.

Precautions to take during a thunderstorm

If you are in the open:

Do not stay on high ground.

Seek shelter in a building or vehicle. If that is not possible, seek shelter in a low-lying area such as a thick growth of small trees and crouch into a ball on the ground.

Do not ride on a bicycle, motorcycle or golf cart.

Spread out if you are in a group.

Avoid holding metal objects and standing under tall trees or standing near metal fences, pipes and rails.

Avoid using the telephone, electrical appliances and electronic equipment.

Head for shore if you are in open water.

If you are at home:

Avoid taking a shower or bath, as plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity;

Avoid using a corded telephone unless it is an emergency; cordless and cellphones are safe to use.

Unplug electrical appliances, including air conditioners. Power surges caused by lightning can damage these items.