Bukit Timah house fire: Man who died was 'life of the party'

Mr Spencer Tan (above) had plans to study engineering after completing NS. His father, who also died, is believed to have dashed back into the burning house (below).
Mr Spencer Tan (above) had plans to study engineering after completing NS. His father, who also died, is believed to have dashed back into the burning house (below).PHOTOS: FACEBOOK PAGE OF SPENCER TAN, WONG KWAI CHOW
Mr Spencer Tan (above) had plans to study engineering after completing NS. His father, who also died, is believed to have dashed back into the burning house (below).
Mr Spencer Tan (above) had plans to study engineering after completing NS. His father, who also died, is believed to have dashed back into the burning house (below).PHOTOS: FACEBOOK PAGE OF SPENCER TAN, WONG KWAI CHOW

Life held plenty of promises for Mr Spencer Tan Chee Phang.

He had plans to study engineering at a local university after completing his national service in seven months.

He had just celebrated with his girlfriend Yap Sze Kee, 19, the anniversary of their year-long romance.

But the 22-year-old infantry section commander perished in a fire at his home in Bukit Timah, slightly before dawn on Sunday.

The third in a family of four children, he left his hometown of Segamat, Johor, for Singapore at age 17, to study aerospace engineering at Temasek Polytechnic.

His father, Mr Tan Boon Chong, 53, also died in the fire. He is believed to have dashed back into the burning terrace house when he realised his son was still inside.

Last night, his grief-stricken mother said tearfully at their wake at Singapore Casket: "This is the toughest day of my life. He was my filial son."

The aunt of Spencer's girlfriend, Madam Agnes Tay, 41, said the couple were on the phone till 1am, three hours before the fire broke out.

She said: "Sze Kee asked me if she could ask Spencer to come back. I said it's impossible."

Friends described Spencer as the life of the party.

Said Mr Dharshana Perera, 26, who was Spencer's schoolmate at Temasek Polytechnic: "He was a very cool guy, very cheerful.

"He was always smiling."

Army mate Lin Zhiqian, 22, added: "He was the joker. The bunk was never quiet with him around. During our 24km route march... he was very helpful and would help others by carrying their stuff."

Ms Yap's cousin, printer supplier Kevin Tay, 22, who went out often with Spencer, recalled their last meeting: "We were at his army friend's birthday party before he went home last Saturday night, hours before the fire.

"It was the last time I saw him. I still can't believe it."

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg

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