A 29-year-old man drowned yesterday afternoon at Sungei Api Api canal near Pasir Ris Park.
Relatives later identified the victim as Mr Syed Shafiq Syed Peer, 29, a chef. He was believed to have gone into the river to untangle a fishing line that had gotten caught.
Mr Mohammad Lutfi Ghazali, 29, a mover, said the victim seemed to be sure of himself as he climbed down into the water at around 3pm.
But later on, he appeared to be having problems. "He was showing signs of struggle but he didn't shout," said Mr Mohammad Lutfi, who had been at the park for a picnic with his wife.
It was high tide and there was a strong river current, which prevented bystanders from trying to rescue the victim, he said.
Nearby kayakers who had tried to save him were also turned away by the strong current.
Ms Joanna Tan, 29, a headhunter for the oil and gas industry, said she did not realise at first that the victim was drowning, as he did not shout or appear to be signalling for help. She said the victim's sister and maid, who were on the bridge, also did not seem to notice initially that he was in trouble. "He was right in front of them," said Ms Tan.
Eyewitnesses The Straits Times spoke to said they were not sure how deep the water was when Mr Syed Shafiq went into the canal.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and police were informed of the incident at 3.17pm.
The SCDF arrived at the scene at around 3.30pm and deployed amphibious vehicles and Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team divers to try to save the victim.
But his body was later recovered by the divers at 5.50pm and taken to a part of nearby Pasir Ris beach where a blue tent was set up.
By this time, a crowd of more than 100 people had gathered, with some taking photos and videos.
The victim's relatives, who had arrived at the scene, became upset with the bystanders who were taking videos, shouting at them to respect the dead and delete the videos.
Relatives said Mr Syed Shafiq had gone fishing in the park with his father, older sister and maid, who all lived together in Bedok North. His mother and eldest sister are both deceased. The youngest in his family, Mr Syed Shafiq did not go fishing very often, but was a good swimmer, relatives added.
Police, who have classified the case as an unnatural death, are investigating.