DPS: Drowning victim was about to go diving

The 62-year-old woman who drowned at the Grotto in Marpi last Sunday afternoon was about to scuba dive when she and an instructor slipped on a rock and fell into the water, according to the Department of Public Safety yesterday.

DPS spokesperson Jacqueline Rae Shepard said that, according to witnesses, eight divers, including the victim, went to the Grotto to scuba dive.

Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services acting spokesperson Linus Mizutani earlier identified the victim as 61-year-old Xhaoxia Yang, a Chinese national. Initial information given to DFEMS also indicated that Yang had no intent to dive as she had no diving gear.

But Shepard said yesterday that witnesses stated that the victim and seven others had their scuba gear on as their instructor helped them cross to the big rock.

When it was the victim’s turn to cross, she and the instructor slipped, causing them to fall into the water toward the right side of the rock.

A bystander was able to pull the instructor to safety. When the bystander reached for the victim, a wave came and swept her toward the rocks.

A witness saw the victim’s head was still above water, but a second wave pulled her under.

The dive instructor attempted to rescue her, but later decided to call 911 after the waters became too rough.

Shepard said DPS dispatch received a call about the incident at 2:09pm and that it was at 2:44pm when DFEMS medics recovered the victim, who was wedged underneath a rock.

Shepard said that when police officers arrived at Grotto, DFEMS medics were already at the scene treating a man, who was lying on the grass in the northbound shoulder.

The report did not indicate whether this man was the instructor.

At the time, Shepard said, the victim had not yet been recovered.

When the victim’s body was recovered, medics transported her to the Commonwealth Health Center’s emergency room, where a doctor pronounced her dead at 3:22pm.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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