KUALA LUMPUR: “His last words were please save my son.”
That plea from a desperate, drowning Arab tourist left a trained rescue diver with no choice but to let go of the man.
Ung Eng Huan related how he could only watch helplessly as the man, since identified as Husain Musaad Alawfi, 51, drifted away in the choppy waters off Pantai Chenang in Langkawi on Sunday.
The father and son were all the while screaming in Arabic as one was dragged to safety while the other drifted to his death.
“The father was no longer in sight but his voice seemed to be yelling some words of comfort to his crying son,” Ung said, recounting how he managed to save Husain’s 13-year old son, Abdul Rahman.
Husain’s body was eventually recovered a few hours after he was last seen about 3pm.
The victim had only days earlier checked into a nearby beach resort and had gone on a beach outting with his family before the tragedy struck.
He was sitting on the beach with his wife while his sons – Abdul Rahman and Yasir Hussain, 21, were enjoying themselves in the water.
However, there was pandemonium when the boys were suddenly sucked out to sea by a rip tide.
Ung who witnessed the entire tragedy unfold said he was at the beach for a photoshoot with a model when he suddenly heard screams for help in Arabic.
The 60-year old, who is a former marine biologist and trained rescue diver, said he saw the boys’ father immediately jumping into the water.
“His sons were about 20-meters away from the beach at that time.
“I knew I had to help the family so I took off my t-shirt and glasses and jumped in too...by that time the undertow of the rip tide had dragged all three to about 40m from the beach,” he said.
Ung, who has over 500 dives experience, said the sea was extremely rough at that time with high waves pounding down on them.
“I had to use all my strength to swim towards the family.
“I managed to reach the father and son who were clinging on to a small wood to stay afloat. They were in distress and crying out in Arabic to each other. The other boy was nowhere to be seen.”
After drifting for a few minutes, their heads bobbing up and down as they were tossed about, Husain finally pleaded to Ung in English.
“He said please save my son. As a trained rescue diver, I knew I could only focus on one rescue at a time as a double rescue of two persons in utter panic is too dangerous for all.
“So I grabbed the boy and swam towards some rocks.
Once they were on solid ground, Ung tried to calm Abdul Rahman who continued yelling for his father.
Eventually, the Civil Defence force appeared and one of the rescuer stayed on with the duo on the rocks for about an hour before a boat came and took them ashore, where they were informed that Abdul Rahman’s older brother had also been rescued.
However, Husain was nowhere to be seen and everyone soon braced for the worst.
His body was eventually recovered about three hours later.
It is learnt the family left Malaysia on Monday and the Saudi Arabia embassy is making arrangements to fly the victim's body back to his country.