Bumboat fire: Missing 33-year-old boatman has been with Singapore River Cruise for a year

SCDF divers looking for the missing man on July 13, 2016.
SCDF divers looking for the missing man on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
SCDF divers looking for the missing man at Marina Bay on July 13, 2016.
SCDF divers looking for the missing man at Marina Bay on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
SCDF divers looking for the missing man at Marina Bay on July 13, 2016.
SCDF divers looking for the missing man at Marina Bay on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
SCDF officers on the site next to the charred bumboat.
SCDF officers on the site next to the charred bumboat.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
SCDF officers on the site next to the charred bumboat.
SCDF officers on the site next to the charred bumboat.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Officers from the Public Utilities Board were also involved in search operations.
Officers from the Public Utilities Board were also involved in search operations.ST PHOTO: JANICE TAI
Police speaking to family members on July 13, 2016.
Police speaking to family members on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
A PUB boat with a bumboat at the Marina Bay on July 13, 2016.
A PUB boat with a bumboat at the Marina Bay on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
SCDF officers preparing to go into a boat to search for the missing man on July 13, 2016.
SCDF officers preparing to go into a boat to search for the missing man on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
SCDF officers in a PUB boat in the search for the body on July 13, 2016.
SCDF officers in a PUB boat in the search for the body on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
A tugboat with SCDF divers looking for the missing man.
A tugboat with SCDF divers looking for the missing man.ST PHOTO: JANICE TAI
SCDF drivers looking for the missing man on July 13, 2016.
SCDF drivers looking for the missing man on July 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: JANICE TAI

SINGAPORE - The boatman who is missing after his bumboat caught fire on the Singapore River on Tuesday (July 12) evening had  been working for Singapore River Cruise for about a year.

Mr Ong Hock Long, 33, was on his way to pick up passengers at the Esplanade bumboat stop when his boat, number 36, caught fire, said a colleague who did not want to be named.

He was the only person on the battery-operated boat at the time of the fire. He jumped off the back of the boat when it caught fire.

Another boat approached his, and its crew prepared to throw a life buoy, but Mr Ong did not surface, the colleague said.

Mr Ong's family was seen waiting for news of him at the Esplanade outdoor amphitheatre stand on Wednesday afternoon.

The Straits Times understands that each boat has a fire extinguisher, about 30 life vests and four life buoys, and the boat captains can usually swim.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has called off the underwater search for him.

An SCDF spokesman said on Wednesday morning that a surface search resumed after its underwater search ceased at around midnight.

When The Straits Times arrived at the bank of the Singapore River on Wednesday morning, the charred bumboat was seen moored near the Esplanade.

Several SCDF officers, as well as four women who appeared to be family members of the boatman, were also spotted at the scene.

 

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

Eyewitness videos posted on social media had shown massive plumes of smoke rising from the boat.

The search for the boatman commenced after the fire was put out, with SCDF deploying its elite Dart divers, who faced challenges such as poor underwater visibility at night and having to submerge and search through the deep silt of the river bed.

Their methods of search included point diving at a depth of about 4m and employing a circular search pattern from the point where the boatman was last seen, with the search team moving in a grid formation.