SINGAPORE — The family members of missing Singaporean kayaker Tan Eng Soon said that although his body was not found, they take heart that “he loved the sea and he will be at peace there”.
The search for the 62-year-old retired lawyer was called off by Malaysian authorities at 9pm on Sunday (18 August), 10 days after he and fellow Singaporean Josephine Puah Geok Tin, 57, went missing in Endau waters in Mersing.
In a note issued through Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Tan’s family said, “We, the family of Tan Eng Soon, would like to thank the MMEA and all other organisations that have been involved in the search for him.
“The support and compassion of the local fishermen and community has also touched us and given us strength through this difficult time. We would also like to offer our heartfelt thanks to the Singapore MFA who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to be with us every step of the way.”
Tan went missing 10 days after he and Puah became separated from a group of 13 other Singaporeans at around 5.40pm in Endau waters on 8 August, some eight hours after setting off from a jetty in Mersing.
Puah’s remains were found last Wednesday in the waters off Terengganu and repatriated to Singapore two days later.
In a press release issued in Malay on Monday, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said, “The 10-day search and rescue operation was successful in locating the body for a female victim along with a kayak and personal belongings. The man’s body has not been located.”
The search for Tan was called off due to “the lack of new clues” following the discovery of Puah’s body but will be reactivated if new leads are found, said Johor MMEA director First Admiral Aminuddin Abdul Rashid.
Tan and Puah were believed to have drifted away from the group due to turbulent sea and strong wind conditions.
In a statement issued on Monday, an MFA spokesperson said, “We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the two Singaporeans involved in a mishap while kayaking in Mersing, Malaysia. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families during this difficult time.”
The spokesperson also expressed its appreciation and gratitude to the Malaysian government and authorities, including the MMEA, involved in the search and rescue operation.
“It was an intensive operation, during which assets and manpower were deployed in challenging conditions that covered a vast area of waters off the Malaysian states of Johor, Pahang and Terengganu,” added the spokesperson.
“We have also been heartened by the support and assistance of ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life, especially the fishermen in the area who played a critical role in the recovery efforts.”
The search and operation for Tan on Saturday covered an area of 300 nautical square miles (776 sq km) from waters of Kemaman to Kuala Terengganu.
A green kayak used by the duo was found early last week by a fisherman more than 80 nautical miles (148 km) away from where Tan and Puah were last seen.
Josephine Puah’s funeral
Puah will be cremated at the Mandai Crematorium at around 2pm on Tuesday, following a three-day wake held at Tampines Street 12.
In an Instagram story post last Friday, Louis Pang, Puah’s son, thanked well-wishers for the care and support expressed for his family.
“Josephine Puah Geok Tin has lived her life to the fullest,” he said.
“Thank you once again for all your kindness, love and support towards us. We truly appreciate it.”