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Body of boatman missing in Marina Bay fire recovered after 27-hour search

SINGAPORE — The body of the missing boatman, whose river taxi caught fire on Tuesday evening, was found in the Singapore River late on Wednesday (July 13) after a 27-hour search operation, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said.

Body of boatman missing in Marina Bay fire recovered after 27-hour search

Firefighters retrieve the body of a missing boatman on July 13. Photo: Singapore Civil Defence Force

SINGAPORE —  The body of the missing boatman, whose river taxi caught fire on Tuesday evening, was found in the Singapore River late on Wednesday (July 13) after a 27-hour search operation, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said. 

The boatman has been identified as Ong Hock Long, who is in his 30s.

In a Facebook post at 11.30pm, the SCDF said Ong’s body was retrieved by SCDF firefighters with assistance from PUB, the national water agency. 

“The next-of-kin has been informed. Our condolences to the family,” the SCDF post said.

Ong’s boat caught fire on Tuesday evening, and eyewitnesses said they saw a man jump from the burning vessel into the water. 

Smoke from the fire of the burning bumboat near the Esplanade could be seen from as far as the Central Business District, according to postings on social media.

Apart from Ong, there were no other reports of missing persons or injuries. 

The river taxi service is run by Singapore River Cruise.

Earlier on Wednesday, several boatmen told TODAY that bumboat operations usually require two crew members to be on board the vessel at all times. Mr Ong is believed to have been alone on the vessel when the fire broke out.

One boatman, who did not want to be named, told TODAY that each bumboat has two fire extinguishers on board, with life vests under the seats.

As such, if there were a fire on board, “we would immediately put the fire out first”, he added.

When TODAY visited the jetties where the bumboats from Singapore River Cruise ply, it appeared to be business as usual. The brown bumboats could be seen ferrying tourists on cruises along the Singapore River and Marina Bay area. 

One tourist on the bumboat cruise, who wanted to be known only as Mr Wang, said he was not aware of the fire.

At about 2pm on Wednesday, the burnt vessel was seen being towed away by a tugboat from the outdoor stage of the Esplanade Theatres by the Bay. Parts of the stage still remained cordoned off from the public. 

Around the stage and the pier, tourists could be seen snapping selfies with the charred skeleton of the boat before it was towed away.

Singapore River Cruise on Wednesday did not respond to TODAY’s queries about the incident. A TODAY reporter also visited the company’s office in North Bridge Road, but was turned away by a staff member.

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