SINGAPORE - Soon after the derrick of an oil drillship caused two cable cars to be plunged into the waters off Sentosa, divers from the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) - a special forces formation of the Republic of Singapore Navy - arrived to conduct underwater search.
Among them was Third Sergeant (Ret) Faustin Hogan, now 61, who recounted the 1983 incident to the media at the occasion of NDU's 50th anniversary.
"It was utter chaos. There were so many people shouting, pointing and coming up to us.
"We went to where we thought the cable car might be located.... I went down and it took quite awhile as it was completely dark. Just as my air was about to finish, I managed to come into contact with one of the cable cars," he said.
Mr Hogan added that the lesson he took from that accident that killed seven people was to take nothing for granted.
On Thursday (Dec 9), he was among the guests at the Sembawang Camp parade commemorating NDU's 50th anniversary.
The ceremony was officiated by Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen and among those present were the Chief of Defence Force, Chief of Navy and NDU pioneers.
A Trooping of Colours ceremony was conducted to celebrate NDU's golden jubilee milestone.
During the ceremony, Dr Ng thanked generations of NDU divers for their service and dedication.
He added: "The Special Forces, or NDU equivalents in militaries around the world, form an elite group, often tasked to accomplish difficult missions which can even change the course of history."
The NDU has come a long way since its inception, Dr Ng said, adding that the formation "has seen its fair share of excitement over the years".
Apart from the cable car incident, he cited other interventions by NDU divers over the years, including responding to the SilkAir Flight MI185 crash into the Musi River in Indonesia in 1997, and being deployed as part of the Navy's international counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden from 2009 to 2018.
During the ceremony on Thursday, two units were inaugurated into NDU: the 180 Squadron and the Special Boat Group.
The 180 Squadron comprises the Accompanying Sea Security Teams, which conduct compliant ship boarding checks on merchant ships to ensure the safety and security of Singapore's waters.
The Special Boat Group will raise, train and sustain all maritime specialised craft, including the Combatant Craft Large, a newly operationalised craft that was designed and built locally.
The two new units are a part of an overall restructuring of NDU to take on the expanded operational demands of maritime special operations.
NDU's Master Chief, Master Warrant Officer Eddie Chua, said NDU has evolved over the last 50 years from supporting the navy to building up its capabilities to handle more maritime special operations.
He added: "NDU is what it is today because of our people, and we have invested a lot in them to train them hard."