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    Jul 14, 2016

    Search for missing boatman moves to land

    THE boatman who is still missing after a bumboat caught fire on Tuesday evening is said to seemingly be in no hurry to flee the burning vessel.

    His father told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao in a report yesterday that his son had always been quiet but had broken up with his girlfriend of two years about two months ago.

    The fire sent a plume of dark smoke at about 6.30pm over the Singapore River, near the Esplanade.

    It was put out by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) using two water jets from the riverbank.

    The boatman, whom Wanbao identified as Wang Fulong, 33, jumped off the boat and has been missing since.

    SCDF deployed its elite divers that evening, but said in a Facebook post yesterday afternoon that it had ceased its underwater search for the boatman and was looking for him on land.

    A female eyewitness, in her 30s, told Wanbao that there had been only one man on the boat. At first, he was sitting. Then, he stood up and lay down.

    "I thought at first that he had passed out from smoke inhalation and was worried for him. But after that, he sat up again and walked back and forth on the deck, and jumped off into the river only five minutes later," she said.

    She added that three boats nearby sailed over to save him, but he did not surface.

    Wanbao spoke to the missing man's father, Wang Ruihua, 63, who said he had once helped his son pay off a debt from a failed business.

    The boatman's colleague told Wanbao that standard procedures called for two boatmen to be on a bumboat.

    Although there were lifejackets on board, several eyewitnesses said the boatman did not have one on. He also did not use the fire extinguisher on board.

    According to his father, Mr Wang knew how to swim, as boatmen are required to, so it was strange that he did not surface after diving in.

    As of press time yesterday, the boatman had been missing for over 24 hours.