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Team of 6 Malaysia rescuers drown trying to save teen boy

By
Nicholas Sakelaris

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Malaysian authorities are looking into the deaths of a half-dozen rescue workers who drowned Wednesday searching for a missing teenager.

Officials said the rescuers were trying to find a teenage boy who'd fallen into a mining pool. Their deaths mark the deadliest accident for servicemen in the country's history.

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Malaysian Fire and Rescue Director-general Mohammed Hamdan Wahid said all six men had followed standard operating procedure by using ropes to tie themselves together during the rescue operation.

Heavy rains, though, caused water levels to rise and the rescuers became caught in strong undercurrents, authorities said.

"They had formed a human chain in an attempt to reach a nearby floodgate where they believed the drowned victim was located but one of the personnel missed his footing as they traversed the water," Wahid said. "Strong undercurrents caused by heavy rains earlier then dragged all of them into a whirlpool where they subsequently drowned."

Four of the divers were from the fire department's water rescue unit from the Port Klang Fire and Rescue Station. The others were from the Shah Alarm Fire Station.

Wahid said standard operating procedure now must be improved to avoid similar accidents in the future.

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The night-time operation was understood to be risky, but officials said the rescuers believed they could save the 17-year-old boy in the mining pool. The boy did not survive, and authorities retrieved his body Thursday just hours after the rescuers drowned.

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