Singapore diver dies of sting ray attack

A typical sting ray attack doesn't kill people but the victims can die if they are stung in the chest, which triggers a cardiac arrest.

Singapore diver dies of sting ray attack
Diver Philip Chan, dressed as Santa Claus, feeds fish during Christmas festivities at the Underwater World Singapore aquarium on the island of Sentosa, December 20, 2013. REUTERS

A Singapore water park supervisor died in a rare and fatal sting ray attack reminiscent of the one suffered by Australian 'crocodile hunter' Steve Irwin many years ago.

Philip Chan, 62, a senior staff at Underwater World Singapore (UWS), died on Tuesday following the sting ray attack, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said.

Like Irwin, Chan suffered a sting in the chest even as he was transferring some animals for to a new aquarium, Underwater World said.

Chan, an experienced diver, was shifted to the Singapore General Hospital, where he was declared dead a few hours later.

Chan was a "veteran diver, aquarist and animal caregiver who had been caring for the aquatic animals at UWS since its opening in 1991," UWS said in a statement.

The New Paper reported that Chan led the team of divers at Underwater World Singapore, which was in the process of moving animals to another facility after it shut operations in June.

The paper quoted a marine expert as saying that sting rays in captivity can become aggressive when they are moved from their tanks.

"Stingrays attack when they feel threatened, cornered or alarmed. Sometimes, a stingray might feel threatened when someone accidentally steps on it," ichthyologist Tan Heok Hui told the publication.

A typical sting ray attack releases protein-based enzymes like serotonin to the body but whether the toxins are fatal depends on the area where the victim is stung.

The expert said if the victim is stung in the chest it can trigger a fatal cardiac arrest.