Tioman tragedy: Scientist married just 2 months back

Despite the rain, many attended Dr Lee’s wake (above) at Bedok Reservoir Road. Mr Tan’s wake was being held at Singapore Casket. The two men died on Saturday in a diving accident off Tioman. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING
Despite the rain, many attended Dr Lee’s wake (above) at Bedok Reservoir Road. Mr Tan’s wake was being held at Singapore Casket. The two men died on Saturday in a diving accident off Tioman. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

The grieving wife of dive victim Lee Yong Yeow had only shared two months of marriage with him when tragedy struck, robbing her of her life partner - "a good man who loved the people around him".

Mrs Y.H. Lee told The Straits Times at the wake yesterday that her husband "kept a low profile and didn't even have a Facebook account".

"But you can see by how many people are here today just what kind of person he was."

Despite the rain, visitors began arriving at the wake at Bedok Reservoir Road from 2pm to pay their respects.

Dr Lee, 35, was a research scientist and project leader at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

He was regarded as a promising talent in the bioengineering field, having won an outstanding mentor award at his workplace this year and another for his entrepreneurial work with colleagues in 2010.

Dr Lee and his wife went to Tioman on Friday for a three-day dive trip.

He was diving with his instructor, Mr Tan Seah Heng, 48, about 25m from the shore on Saturday at about 11am when they ran into difficulties.

Dr Lee and Mr Tan are believed to have run out of air. Nearby divers, including Mrs Lee, tried to help but could not resuscitate the men.

One of Dr Lee's two brothers told The Straits Times at the wake that the family "did not want to speculate till full details of the facts are known".

Dr Lee's supervisor, Professor Jackie Y. Ying, said she was "deeply saddened".

"(Yong Yeow) has been with IBN for 10 years. (He) was not only an outstanding researcher, a dedicated and loyal staff, but also an extraordinary person who is well-loved by his colleagues," added Prof Ying, IBN's executive director.

Mr Tan's family asked for privacy at Singapore Casket.

A cousin, who did not wish to be named, said Mr Tan was an adventurous person who liked to go mountain climbing and diving with his wife.

"We are all very shocked because he was still young and he didn't have kids yet," said the woman, 62.

Many questions remain unanswered over the incident, despite initial theories that the two divers did not have full air tanks before entering the water.

Dive experts who spoke to The Straits Times noted that diving fatalities are very rare given the strict safety standards. These include teaching divers to ensure they have a full tank of air before each dive.

"All the equipment needs to be checked before a dive, like the buoyancy compensator, weight belt, releases, and air tank," said Mr Gary Savins, 45, owner of GS-Diving and an instructor for four years.

Fellow instructor Jack Lim, 34, who runs Scuba Mart in Jakarta, said that in an out-of-air situation, divers should turn to their buddy to get air from the spare regulator, before doing a slow ascent. If both divers run out of air, they should swim to the surface. Once there, they should manually inflate their buoyancy compensators and dump their weights.

maryamm@sph.com.sg

joseow@sph.com.sg