By all accounts, Jake Seet Choon Heng, 33, was “one of the fittest” amongst a close-knit group of freelance commercial divers.
The young father and avid football player was also described as a jovial person who loved to banter even while doing his highly demanding job.
At his wake at Pasir Ris Drive 1 on Tuesday evening (8 May), well-wishers – many of them fellow commercial divers – gathered together to pay respects to Seet, whom some described as “a brother” and “a family member”.
Nasrun Muhammad Kadir, 27, who worked on his first ever diving assignment with Seet, described the more seasoned diver as someone who was “very physically and mentally strong.”
“I was very shocked (at the news). He was like family, we worked together for four years,” said Nasrun. “The commercial diving field is very small. Whatever happens to each other, we will know.”
Another freelance commercial diver, who declined to be named, first befriended Seet while on the job seven to eight years ago.
“His baby is coming next month… and (they are) moving into a new house, so he had to work extra hard,” said the man in his 40s. Seet leaves behind two sons aged six and three. His wife is due to give birth to their third child, a daughter, next month.
Seet was, however, doing a job that was highly risky and physically demanding, the man said.
Commercial divers are like “underwater construction workers” who are not standing on solid ground, he said. “There are currents and water pressure acting on you. On land, you can walk away from it,” he added.
When asked what could have caused Seet’s death, he said in an industry of about 200 to 300 local commercial divers, “there are 1,001 things that could happen (to them) underwater”.
As such, the risks on the job are not worthwhile to take for most people, he noted.
“Some people will say this job pays slightly better than others but the pain we go through underwater, I can assure you (most divers) have had near-drowning experiences.
“Look at him – just go for a job that is about two to three hours long, $300 to $400 per day (for a 12-hour shift), and his life is gone,” he added.
Seet went missing while conducting underwater operations for the vessel Jork at the Western Anchorage near Sentosa on Saturday.
The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) was alerted of his disappearance at about 2.43pm on the same day and deployed patrol crafts to the scene to conduct a search and rescue operation.
Dive boats and divers were also deployed by the commercial diving company to support the search, and navigational broadcasts were issued to alert nearby vessels of the incident.
The search and rescue operation was still underway as of 5.02pm on Monday, an MPA spokesperson told Yahoo News Singapore.
Less than two hours later, his body was found floating in the sea off Sentosa. The police said they were alerted to the discovery at 6.36pm on the same day and are investigating the unnatural death.
On Monday, his elder sister Jacqueline Seet, 37, made an urgent appeal for “all parties to do their utmost” to bring her brother home. In a media statement, she added that neither the authorities nor her brother’s employer had promptly informed their family about his disappearance.
When approached at the wake, Jacqueline declined to comment further on the situation, citing that “investigations are ongoing”.
Seet was employed by Mola Subsea Services, which provides commercial diving services for vessels at major ports and anchorages within Singapore. Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to the company for comments.
Jacqueline added that her sister-in-law, Seet’s wife, was “doing better” but declined to speak to the media.
Among the well-wishers who came to the wake was Neo Chin Choo, 62, who did not know Seet personally.
The part-time account clerk found out about Seet’s passing when she fetched her six-year-old granddaughter from school. Her granddaughter’s teacher had informed her that the father of a classmate had passed away in an accident.
“It’s heartbreaking and very sad. He was very young. His kids are so young and small,” said a tearful Neo in Mandarin.