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  Straits Times 28 Mar 06
Suit against Sentosa for stonefish sting dismissed
by K.C. Vijayan

Straits Times Forum Online 29 Nov 05
Stung by a stonefish? Advice available 24/7

Straits Times Forum Online 21 Nov 05
Stonefish on Sentosa no surprise
Letter from Eng Ting Ting (Ms)

I FEEL sorry for Mr Adam Hamzah ('Stung by a stonefish, he is suing Sentosa'; ST, Nov 14).

My family used to spend a lot of weekends on Tanjung Beach and the rich variety of marine life never ceased to amaze us. It is therefore not surprising to find stonefish.

This incident serves as a reminder to beachgoers to wear shoes or sandals in the water.

Eng Ting Ting (Ms)

The Straits Times 14 Nov 05

Stung by a stonefish, he is suing Sentosa
by K.C. Vijayan

A BEACH-GOER is suing Sentosa Development Corporation after he stepped on a poisonous stonefish at one of the island's beaches and ended up with a rare permanent pain condition that cost him a career.

Mr Adam Hamzah, 31, was afflicted with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which affects a nerve and causes persistent pains of varying intensity every day. The reef stonefish - reputedly one of the most venomous fish in the world - punctured the sole of Mr Adam's left foot in two places while he was wading in waist-high waters at Tanjong Beach in February. The well-camouflaged greenish-brown creature has dorsal spines that discharge poison if stepped on.

Mr Adam's wife, Eidza Jumanis, alerted a lifeguard as he hobbled ashore and he was taken to hospital, where doctors had to cut open his sole to draw out the poison on two occasions over about a month. Mr Adam underwent two foot operations and racked up a $20,000 medical bill.

The father of three is suing Sentosa Development for compensation for the suffering he underwent and losses he suffered. The case came up for a pre-trial hearing in the subordinate courts last week, and was postponed for further mention on Dec 5.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Mr Adam said Sentosa did not seek to settle out of court. 'They think I should have worn shoes, but everybody goes barefoot on the beach. Everybody knows Sentosa is the cleanest, best kept resort and the beach is man-made and not natural. They maintain it well and that is why I trusted Sentosa and went there always,' he said.

A sign near the lifeguard's post on the Sentosa beach warns bathers to 'beware of uninvited guests', referring to stonefish and jellyfish. 'During the monsoon season (November to January), stonefish are occasionally sighted in our tropical seawater as they migrate closer to shore,' it says.

Court documents filed show that the location of the signboard is at issue. Mr Adam claims the sole signboard was nowhere in the vicinity where he had parked his car. He claims he had walked from his car directly to the beach and had not seen the sign.

Mr Adam, who is represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, said he decided to seek compensation because of 'the suffering I had been through and the job that I lost'. He said: 'After I lost my job, I went down with a lot of debt, even my car was impounded. I used to be a volunteer citizen on patrol, but I can't do that anymore. Every night, I'm woken up by the pain. I feel there are about 10 nails in my feet. I can't run, squat or even bend the way I used to in order to pray anymore.'

He lost his job as a trainer in the firm where he was also a shareholder. He found a sales job in July, after several other attempts failed.

A spokesman for Sentosa Development declined to comment.

Such mishaps rare

MARINE experts say although the deadly reef stonefish are prevalent in local waters, mishaps such as the one involving Mr Adam Hamzah are rare. The fish's camouflage is not meant to snare people, but to help it catch smaller fish that are its prey.

According to the Australian Museum Fish website, the reef stonefish has stout spines which can inject a highly toxic venom. 'The venom causes intense pain and is believed to have killed many Pacific and Indian Ocean islanders ...An anti-venom developed in 1959 further reduces the likelihood of death. Despite this, many people suffer the agony of a sting every year,' it said.

Professor Chou Loke Ming of the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore, who described the incident as 'unfortunate', said the stonefish is a sedentary creature, not an active swimmer that looks for prey. 'The habitat of these stonefish is in coastal areas, hidden in rocky areas. They are very seldom found in waters with smooth, sandy bottoms.'

Straits Times Forum Online 29 Nov 05
Stung by a stonefish? Advice available 24/7

I REFER to the article, 'Stung by a stonefish, he is suing Sentosa' (ST, Nov 14). It is unfortunate that Mr Adam Hamzah suffered such ill consequences from a stonefish sting.

In the past 12 months, the Drug & Poison Information Centre (DPIC) has received 23 calls requesting advice on the management of bites and stings from sea creatures, including stonefish, catfish, jellyfish and sting rays.

Eleven of these calls were related to stonefish stings. However, the true incidence of people getting stung by stonefish is unknown, as not all cases get reported.

The stonefish is a carnivorous fish with a row of venomous spines along its back. It has a mottled greenish to mostly brown colour. This enables it to camouflage itself among the rocks in tide pools and shallow waters of tropical seas. It looks exactly like encrusted rock and feeds on small fish and shrimps.

People are usually stung when they step on or catch a stonefish. The sting can cause severe pain, swelling, muscle weakness, numbness and, in severe cases, shock.

First-aid treatment for a stonefish sting includes washing the affected area with vinegar or seawater, and soaking it in hot (but not scalding) water for 30-90 minutes to ease the pain. Do not cut and suck out the venom as it can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.

The victim should then see a doctor for further treatment.

DPIC is a 24-hour, seven-day telephone consultation service that provides timely information and advice on insect and animal bites and stings, as well as information on medications, such as side effects, allergy or interactions with food or other medicine.

The hotline is 6423-9119. For first-aid tips and more information, visit the website dpic.sgh.com.sg

Dr R. Ponampalam
Director, Drug & Poison Information Centre
Consultant Toxicologist, Department of Emergency Medicine
Singapore General Hospital

Straits Times 28 Mar 06
Suit against Sentosa for stonefish sting dismissed

by K.C. Vijayan

A JUDGE has thrown out a beachgoer's claim against Sentosa Development Corporation for an injury and pain suffered when he stepped on a poisonous stonefish in the waters off Tanjong Beach.

Sentosa Development has to care for its visitors, but its duty is 'to prevent damage or injury from unusual dangers', ruled District Judge Thian Yee Sze in her written judgment. The presence of stonefish is not unusual in those waters, she added. She dismissed Mr Adam Hamzah's claim with costs.

The 31-year-old marketing and operations executive was stung by a stonefish while wading in waist-high waters off Tanjong Beach in February last year. The reef stonefish - reputedly one of the most venomous fish in the world - punctured the sole of his left foot in two places. The well-camouflaged greenish-brown creature has dorsal spines that discharge poison if stepped on. Mr Adam, whose nerves were affected, ran up a $20,000 medical bill and is still racked by pain.

However, the judge rejected his claim for compensation. She said: 'Having regard to the nature of Tanjong Beach and the surrounding waters, would beachgoers and swimmers expect stonefish or other marine creatures, both poisonous and non-poisonous, to lurk in the waters? I would and should think so.'

Mr Adam's lawyer, Mr Andrew Hanam, had argued there had been only one or two stonefish incidents a year between 2003 and last year, when more than five million people visited the Sentosa beaches annually - and the probability of getting stung was 0.000033 per cent.

However, Judge Thian said 'unusual danger' cannot be interpreted by the rarity of its occurrence. Mr Adam's 'encounter with the stonefish was, simply put, a misfortune, and the court empathises with his plight and suffering,' she said.

As an analogy, the judge said if she climbed Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and was stung by a bee or a swarm of hornets, she could 'blame it on my bad luck'. She said that the presence of bees or hornets there would not pose an unusual danger to visitors as they 'are found in that environment as it is their natural habitat'.

However, it would be unusual for a swimmer to find sharp objects like pieces of glass lying at the bottom of a public swimming pool, she said. As the presence of stonefish was not an unusual danger, the question of Sentosa Development having breached its duty did not arise. In fact, it had acted with due diligence in ensuring the safety of visitors from the 'usual' dangers.

She rejected arguments by lawyers representing Sentosa Development that it is not required to manage or control the waters. The judge pointed to the 'trawling' of the seabed by Sentosa Development to remove seaweed and fish from the waters off the beach as evidence of its control. She noted it had started trawling operations in January last year and put up warning signs about the hazards of the waters off Tanjong Beach.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Adam expressed disappointment over the decision. He said he is still on medication and suffers spasmodic pains lasting up to 20 seconds four to five times a day. 'I have this phobia for the waters and I will never venture onto a beach again. 'Not in a million years - even if I get to wear a pair of shoes with the thickest soles,' he added.

Sentosa chief executive officer Darrell Metzger said: 'The courts obviously felt we have been very responsible when they gave the verdict in favour of Sentosa. 'We will continue to create awareness among the public through visual aids, signage and regular beach safety campaigns. 'Nevertheless, we regret Mr Adam had to go through this.'

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