My heart goes out to all the loved ones of the 5 victims of the recent tragedy that shocked and saddened both Singapore and Cambodia.

It’s greatly unfortunate and an unforeseen twist of Fate when the dragonboat capsized as the 22 men were rowing back to the starting line at the end of the 1.5 kilometre Cambodia-ASEAN Traditional Boat Race that was held at the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. Instead of waiting for a boat to tow them back, the team had decided to row towards shore themselves. When they were close to shore, a wave hit them, causing the boat to collide with a pontoon and overturn. All 22 fellow Singaporeans fell into the waters and were sucked under the pontoon. Only 17 made it to the shore. Sadly, the rowers were not wearing life jackets when the accident happened. And the 5 who went missing never came back alive.

It is believed that a combination of strong currents and fatigue after the race could play a part in the drowning of the five men. They could also have been knocked unconscious when the 500kg boat capsized in the 9m-deep water.

However, I’m relieved that their bodies had all been recovered from the Tonle Sap River yesterday morning. It would be a lot worse if they went missing forever. At least now they can come home.

I’m sure there will be a lot of questions, especially in the case of the families who lost their members within minutes. For example, why aren’t they wearing life jackets. But I guess sometimes when you are very good at something, you cease to see the importance of safety and the possiblity of “what if”. Like how a seasoned roller blader might not put on safety guards. And some drivers don’t put seat belts.

For me, I ask why is it our particular boat that met with the mishap. It was the first day of the race and the very first time foreign teams were invited to this annual national event of Cambodia which celebrates the end of the monsoon season. Organizers said they could not recall the last time there had been a fatality at the races. There were more than 400 boats out on the river at that time. Yet ours had to be hit by that wave, capsized and have our rowers swept away by the strong currents. And all 5 who died were outstanding individuals – a terrible loss to our nation.

There is no answer to a lot of questions in life, but there is no doubt that this distressing incident once again marks the unpredictablity of life. And death. We are always planning for the future but in reality, sometimes tomorrow might not come. We need to live for today, remember to love our loved ones today instead of thinking of making it up for them another day because there might not be another day.

Take time to do something which you really want to do today, and also take some time now to remember these 5 men who died during the course of representing our nation. I hope that they are rest in peace.

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