Tuesday, September 24

Diver accused of sexual assault on tourists tells his side of story

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KOTA KINABALU: The dive master accused of sexually assaulting two female tourists during a dive activity in Semporna last month, has finally come forward to tell his side of the story and clear his name.

James Jark said that what actually happened on that day (March 31) was not how it was as claimed by the alleged victims.

“The two female tourists were assigned to me for their Discovery Scuba Diving (DSD) activity and my job was to take care of them underwater while they enjoy their dive.

“During the dive, one of the women’s air tank kept becoming unloose as it was not in the right position, and not properly secured on the BCD (Buoyancy Control Devices).

“So I gave her the signal to stop and to adjust the air tank back to the right position, but she gave me back the ‘OK’ sign and kept on diving and did not stop.

“I know that she might not understand what I was trying to tell her as we were underwater and the only means of communication is by hand signals.

“As she did not stop and kept kicking and moving forward, I, then, helped to adjust the air tank back to its proper place, and that was when I accidentally touched her.

“I want to make it clear that I did not touch her on purpose but only to adjust her air tank which had become unloose from her BCD,” said James.

James was also accused of allegedly touching the breast of the second female tourist during the DSD on that day, and he again defended his action that the second woman’s BCD clip in front had also became unloosened.

“She (second woman) did not secure the front clip of her BCD properly before she jumped into the water. I signaled to her that her front clip was not fastened, but again she (second woman) did not appear to understand what I was telling her. I had no choice but to help to fasten the front clip for her,” he said.

According to James, there was a picture showing a hand touching a woman’s breast underwater which was claimed to be him.

He, however, denied that the picture was him as on that particular day, he was wearing a white and pink coloured rash guard, and not black colour as shown in the picture.

“I believe someone made that photo just to hurt me and the company I’m working with. As a professional diver, I believe what I did was necessary to protect the safety of not only the two women but all my customers while diving underwater.

“I know both women have no diving experience, they don’t understand the situation they were in at that time. They were not safe at that time while underwater. If I did not help them, things could have gone from bad and worse, it could even cost them their lives,” said James, who has been a dive master for three years.

He added that all dive guides are professionals in what they do and were taught to take immediate action when encountering a problem for the safety of their customers and other divers.

James then shared his experience of having saving four divers back in October 2017.

“They were customers from another dive centre. Me and my customers saw them struggling in the water. Three of them were already about two meters in the water while the fourth was struggling to stay afloat. Me and one of my customers, who is an experienced diver, immediately jumped into the water without hesitation to save them.

“So for the two women who accused me, I believe what I did was right for their safety,” he said.

Meanwhile, Semporna Professional Diver Association (SPDA) said that the association has been working to solve the issue since it went viral in social media. SPDA said that although James is not a member of the association, they were trying to resolve the issue to help clear the names of professional divers, especially in Semporna.

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) had also taken statements from both James and the dive centre where he is employed for further investigation.