(Photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station Aklan)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon

Seven members of a dragon boat team, three of whom were women, died after their boat capsized in the waters of Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan morning of Sept. 25, 2019.

The fatalities were part of a 21-member Boracay Dragon Force Team that was on training when the incident happened.

The seven fatalities, four of whom were confirmed to be residents of Aklan province, were all declared dead on arrival in various hospitals.

Of the 21 paddlers, 14 survived (8 male and 6 female) while 7 died (4 male and 3 female).

Based on police records, the survivors were Von Navarossa, Mark Baccoy, Jayruld Dalida, Edwin Paradai, Mark Sabadao, Kenneth Bundalan, and Jao Beunaventuta.

The women who survived were Robel Licerio, Karhleen Sabadao, Lanie Ordas, and Janice Lumbo, a certain Julia, Maggie, and Yhen.

Lieutenant Commander Marlowe Acevedo, Philippine Coast Guard – Aklan Station commander, confirmed that one survivor is a Chinese national while the other is Russian.

Of the 14 survivors, only one remains in the hospital for treatment.

Acevedo said their investigation showed that the team assembled at Aqua Resort, Laguna de Boracay at Barangay Balabag in Boracay Island around 6:30 a.m.

By 7:15 a.m., the team departed Laguna De Boracay (Aqua Resort) onboard their dragon boat enroute to the front beach area of Boracay to undergo training.

But around 7:40 a.m., while they were paddling off Linganay Resort, Tulubhan Bay in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, strong waves hit the boat.

“At first, they tried to bail out the water in the boat,” Acevedo said.

But as strong waves battered the boat, it spun out of control and later capsized.

They tried to hold on but were thrown out of the boat.

“According to the survivors, they tried to swim for safety and even rescued their teammates,” he said.

Acevedo said they are still awaiting the medical report to determine whether strong waves knocked the fatalities unconscious making them unable to swim for safety.

Witnesses said the area where the incident happened is just around 300 meters from the shoreline.

Members of the PCG, the Malay Disaster Risk Management Office, the PNP, and the local government were deployed for the rescue efforts.

Acevedo said the team has been training for an international dragon boat race in Taiwan scheduled in November 2019.



Meanwhile, the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation, along with its club team members, has issued a sympathy message following the incident.

In a statement, the team said “it joins the Boracay dragon boat community in praying for the eternal repose of the souls of the department dragon boat paddlers and for the immediate recuperation of those injured in the dragon boat accident this morning.”

“While we are all aware of the perils that inevitably go with dragon boating as an extreme water sport, the PDBF advocates and gives utmost priority to safety. We encourage the use of personal floatation device during training and require wearing the same in local regattas to make sure that we avoid incidents that lead to unnecessary loss of life or sustenance of injury. We also educate our member clubs proper safety protocols in case of capsizing or sinking of boats.”

The federation said it is committed to ensuring that people who are doing dragon boat in the Philippines are well-equipped with proper information and know-how in case of water emergencies.

It also offers its service for free to all dragon boat clubs in the Philippines, members or non-members of the PDBF, for the dissemination of water safety protocols in capsizing, sinking, and other emergencies.

For those interested, they could message PDBF through its Facebook account.

But amid all these claims, the PDBF prayed for peace and comfort to the bereaved families of the seven fatalities.

“May God’s healing and grace descend upon those who recovering. Difficult times as this saddening incident brings us together as one community. May we find peace in the thought that those who have passed left us with joyful memories that we will deeply love and will forever become part of us.”