Bumboat fire: Body of missing boatman found

SCDF officers said they found the body of the missing bumboat operator, on the night of July 13, 2016.
SCDF officers said they found the body of the missing bumboat operator, on the night of July 13, 2016.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SCDF

The body of the missing boatman whose bumboat caught fire on the Singapore River on Tuesday evening was found last night, the Singapore Civil Defence Force said in a Facebook post at about 11.25pm. 

His family members have been informed, the SCDF added.

The boatman’s company and staff have identified him as Mr Ong Hock Long, 33. He had been taking boat number 36 to pick up passengers from the Esplanade stop when the blaze broke out.

Those who work nearby yesterday told The Straits Times what they saw when the boat caught fire. 

Ms Maria Louisa, 44, who works at the Merlion stop ticketing counter said: “I saw him jumping off from the back of the boat. Another boat came alongside his boat and a colleague wanted to throw him a life buoy but he did not surface. 

Referring to Mr Ong’s boat, she added: “We were all waiting for his boat to arrive as it was his turn but it was moving so slowly.” 

Mr Ong has been working for the Singapore River Cruise (SRC) river taxi service for about three years.

He was the only person on the electric boat at the time of the fire.

Mr Heng Soon Seh, a ticketing crew member in his 60s who has worked for SRC for over a decade, said boats are equipped with safety vests.

“Each boat has a fire extinguisher, about 30 life vests, four life buoys, and the boat captains can usually swim,” he said.

 
 

The charred bumboat was moored near the Esplanade before being towed away yesterday afternoon by another boat believed to be operated by Singapore Salvage Engineers. 

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) resumed its surface search for Mr Ong yesterday morning after calling off the underwater search for him at midnight on Tuesday.

The fire occurred at about 6.30pm on Tuesday and was put out by the SCDF using two water jets from the riverbank. 

Videos posted on social media showed large plumes of smoke rising from the boat.

Singapore’s national water agency PUB deployed two of its boats and three contractor boats to assist in search operations. 

Initially, the SCDF’s search methods involved “point diving” at a depth of about 4m. The disaster assistance and rescue team (Dart) team, which was moving in a grid formation, employed a circular search pattern, starting from where the man was last seen.

“Besides the challenge of poor underwater visibility at night, the Dart rescuers also have to... search through the deep silt of the river bed,” said an SCDF spokesman.