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Sentosa urges visitors to be cautious following two incidents of marine stings

SINGAPORE — The Sentosa Development Corporation has urged visitors to be vigilant and take precautions when swimming in its beaches after two incidents involving marine stings on the island last week.

Mr Benjamin Koellmann, a German national and personalised employment pass holder, was stung by a stingray at Tanjong Beach.

Mr Benjamin Koellmann, a German national and personalised employment pass holder, was stung by a stingray at Tanjong Beach.

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  • Two incidents of marine stings occurred at Sentosa on March 28
  • One involved German national Benjamin Koellmann who was stung by a stingray at Tanjong Beach
  • Mr Koellmann said that it felt like a hammer had hit his ankle
  • It is common to find stingrays in shallow waters near the shore, said experts
  • They advised wearing protective footwear when entering waters to reduce chances of being stung

 

SINGAPORE — The Sentosa Development Corporation has urged visitors to be vigilant and take precautions when swimming in its beaches after two incidents involving marine stings on the island last week.

In response to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson from the corporation, which manages the island, said on Monday (April 5) that its beach patrol officers had responded to two requests from guests for first-aid assistance on Sunday, March 28.

One of the two guests was Mr Benjamin Koellmann, a German national and personalised employment pass holder who was stung by a stingray at Tanjong Beach.

Mr Koellmann, 38, who had shared his experience on Nature Society’s Facebook page on Saturday (April 2), said that it was his first such encounter, having frequently visited the beaches of Sentosa.

He told TODAY on Monday that the incident occurred around 6pm when he was emerging from the waters with his three-year-old son.

His wife and one-year-old son were further up on the beach at that time.

Mr Koellmann, who is the chief operating officer of car-trading platform Carsome, said he was about 1m deep and about 2m from the shore when he stepped on something “soft and squishy” with his left foot.

“It all happened in a split second, and something hit my ankle really hard. It was a strange feeling like a hammer or a spear gun hitting just under my ankle,” recalled Mr Koellmann, whose son was about 1m away from him.

As the water was murky, Mr Koellmann said he could not tell what had happened.

It was only after emerging from the water when he realised he was bleeding from a hole in his ankle.

A fellow beach-goer alerted the lifeguards who provided him with first-aid and submerged his foot in hot water.

He was then taken to Singapore General Hospital where he was treated by doctors.

Besides submerging his foot in hot water to alleviate the pain, he was also provided with painkillers and antibiotics, said Mr Koellmann, who was hospitalised until March 31.

When he was brought in, doctors also informed him that they were concurrently treating another patient from Sentosa with a similar injury.

Based on the injury, the doctors assessed that it was a stingray sting, said Mr Koellmann.

Sentosa Development Corporation confirmed that the second incident took place at Siloso Beach in Sentosa that evening but declined to provide details of the visitor for privacy reasons.

When asked how he felt now, Mr Koellmann said that the pain subsided by March 31 and the wound now feels “like an itchy mosquito bite”.

In its response, Sentosa said that its beach patrol officers conduct regular surveillance of the island’s beaches and waters. Signs are also displayed along the beaches to remind guests to be mindful of marine life.

“Guests are advised not to touch stingrays or other marine life if they see any, to minimise exposed skin and to alert other beach-goers and on-ground beach patrol officers to its location. Guests may also contact Sentosa Rangers at 1800 726 4377 for assistance,” said the spokesperson.

STINGRAYS COMMON IN SHALLOW WATERS HERE

Marine experts said that it is common to find stingrays here, particularly in shallow waters near the shore.

About 15 species of stingrays have been reported in Singapore’s waters, said Dr Zeehan Jaafar, a lecturer with the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore.

Ms Naomi Clark-Shen, a postdoctoral candidate at James Cook University Singapore studying sharks and stingrays here, said that blue-spotted fantail rays are often seen in shallow waters such as the area around the Southern Islands while eagle rays have also been spotted at Labrador Park.

Some species like to live in shallow waters near the shore, which can bring them into close contact with humans, she added.

While stingrays may be deterred by human presence, visitors to popular beaches at Sentosa or East Coast Park may still expect to find them there as marine areas are their natural habitat, said Dr Zeehan.

When asked if Mr Koellmann’s encounter was unusual, Ms Clark-Shen said that while there does not seem to be many reports of such encounters in Singapore, the presence of social media means such incidents get more attention right now.

“We must remember that many people swim in Singapore’s seas and the vast majority do not encounter any problems with wildlife,” she added.

She stressed that stingrays do not sting to attack, but do so when they feel surprised, threatened or are defending themselves.

While some stingray stings can be fatal if they occur around the chest or abdomen area, stings on the feet are likely to be just very painful but not fatal, she said.

She suggested that beachgoers use the “stingray shuffle” when entering water, by dragging their feet through the sand to create a plume to scare stingrays away.

However, Dr Zeehan said that this is not a fool-proof method as someone could still step on a stingray anyway.

She suggested that people protect their feet with water boots or shoes, and tread gently in the water without making sudden movements.

If a stingray comes into sight, move away and give it space to swim away. If stung, immerse the pierced area in warm water to relieve the pain and seek medical assistance immediately, advised Dr Zeehan.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we reported that Mr Koellmann is the chief executive officer of Carsome. He is the chief operating officer of the company. We are sorry for the error.

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