Bali Police have ordered rafting tour operators to be more risk-averse after another tourist tragically died after a boat capsized. A 43-year-old mother of four from Saudi Arabia died on Saturday, 26th November, during a rafting trip.
The incident occurred on the Telaga Waja River in Karangasem Regency. The news comes just over a month after an American tourist went missing on the Ayung River in Giaynar and is presumed dead following a week-long search.
It is reported that the victim, known by her initials BKA, died due to losing consciousness after hitting her head on a rock and subsequently drowning. She was enjoying the rafting experience with her husband, four children, and two guides, who all witnessed the incident. The family set off from the Telaga Waja River Tourist Attraction at around 1.30 pm.
The incident occurred at around 2.30 pm when the two rafts carrying the family and the guides got into trouble on the water. Local guides I Nyoman Yudana, 37, and I Nengah Wirasa, 43, split the family across two rafts, the parents and one child in one raft and the three older children in another.
According to local reports, after the family had traveled around 3km downstream toward the merging of the Tanah Bita River and the Telaga Waja River, a surge of water came flooding upstream, smashing the rafts into rocks and causing one to capsize. The boat carrying BKA, her husband, and their child was worst impacted, and the boat carrying the three other children and the guide endeavored to come to the rescue.
Police Chief, Kompol I Gede Made Punia, told reporters that one of the guides attempted to catch BKA as she struggled in the water, but she was quickly swept 150m downstream. Guides and police managed to evacuate BKA’s body from the water but have spoken of the difficulty in investigating the situation while honoring the family’s beliefs and cultural practices regarding death.
BKA was transferred to the Rendang Health Centre. The family refused a post-mortem, and the coroner performed an external assessment and concluded that BKA died by drowning. Dr. I Putu Angga Wirayoga said, “I had time to do an external post-mortem treatment, there were wounds on the back of the head, hands and feet with blisters”.
Kompol Punia said, “The rubber boat capsized because the water was big, besides, it is suspected that the boat hit a rock”. He confirmed that the police arrested the guide who was in charge of the raft that capsized.
The Police Chief ordered rafting tour operators to increase their risk assessment efforts before heading out onto the water. He said, “That’s why I remind the rafting operators to increase their vigilance because it’s the rainy season, the water discharge has increased. There was a flood, and the rafting route [should have] changed”
Guide I Nengah Wirasa told reporters briefly, “I was in the rubber boat. From the start, my job was to look after and protect the victim’s child”.
The news of another tragedy during a rafting experience in Bali only adds more evidence to the case presented by tourism leaders that the island needs to create a standardized set of safety protocols. Speaking at a panel discussion just last week, tourism business operator Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya presented the case for a safety certification for Bali’s tourism businesses.
Wijaya said, “For our tourism workforce, it has been proven that we are needed worldwide. But for our destinations or tourist objects, the quality must continue to be improved so that we can still compete with other countries”.
He continued to use examples of where safety needs improvement, namely at the Bali Swing attractions and during rafting. “It’s not bad, but bamboo and wood [swings] have an age. When should they be replaced, and so on. The same goes for rafting, there must be certification, what is allowed and what is not allowed”.
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