He was reportedly 28 and from Radcliffe, Bury, where he studied health and social care at Bury College.
Ms Hayley Dickenson, a friend of Mr Atkinson, said in an online tribute reported by the BBC that he was "a true gentleman" and "one in a million and loved by so many".
A fundraising page which she set up to help his family has raised almost £5,000 (S$9,000) since it was created on Tuesday.
Ms Natalie Dalton, a contributor, wrote on the page: "Absolutely devastated. What a great, caring gentleman you were. Fly high, mate. You will be missed by many xxxx".
Local lawmaker Ivan Lewis tweeted: "Our Radcliffe community will do all we can to support John's family."