GEORGE TOWN – Fisherman Yeoh Lye Hin has earned the nickname hai guai (sea monster in Chinese) for a reason.
For over five decades, he has been involved in the recovery of at least 80 bodies from the sea in Penang, either alone or while helping in search and rescue operations.
During the tsunami of 2004, he went all the way to Pantai Pasir Panjang in Balik Pulau to help in a search operation. Of the 52 people in Penang who were killed by the tsunami, 34 of them were in Pantai Pasir Panjang.
â€œNot many people dare to go near dead bodies, what more to pull them out from the water.
â€œAnd it is not easy to get bloated bodies out of the water,â€ he said when met at the jetty along the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway in Jelutong where his boat was anchored.
Yeoh is the one people call whenever they need to locate those who committed suicide by jumping into the sea or had fallen off the Penang Bridge or jetties.
He claimed he was only eight when he first fished a body out of the sea with a group of people.
Fisherman Yeoh Lye Hin, 64, offering prayers to the departed ones and some deities at the makeshift altar which he set up near the jetty along Tun Dr
â€œResidents had alerted us about a body in the sea.
â€œI believe he could have been murdered as there were injuries on his body and rivalry between gangsters was intense then,â€ he said.
His most â€˜busy periodâ€™ was in the 80s, when he could vividly recall many incidents of fishing out bodies from the sea.
Yeoh said family members had offered him RM5,000 just to locate and retrieve a body of a victim who had just fallen off the Penang Bridge.
â€œBut I didnâ€™t accept as they were already saddened by losing a loved one.
â€œHow could I take their money?â€ he asked.
But it was not all about pulling bodies out from the sea as he had save a few lives along the way.
â€œI remember rescuing six out of seven friends whose boat overturned during a fishing trip near the Penang Bridge.
â€œThere was also once when I pulled five people to safety on two occasions in a single day in the 80s,â€ he said, adding that through his experience, he found that most bodies would only float up after 26 hours in the water.
He said if they still could not locate the bodies after several days, he would suggest that family members throw their hats or caps into the water.
â€œI believe that the victims will try to reach for their belongings floating in the water and thatâ€™s when they will resurface.
â€œWe have to repeatedly call out their names during the search,â€ he said.
Yeoh also has a makeshift altar near the jetty to offer prayers to the dead he â€œhad savedâ€ and some deities which had been protected him all this while.
â€œThere are also some of my dead friends who are still in â€˜contactâ€™ with me. I can see and talk to them, I know itâ€™s spooky but this is true,â€ he said with a smile. – The Star Online