30YO SCDF Officer Dies While Fighting Fire on Board Tanker in S’pore Waters


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While the rest of us were in bed watching TikToks before going to sleep, there was a team of firefighters who were hard at work in the dark, otherwise calm, Singapore waters.

At Raffles Reserved Anchorage in the south-west part of our island, there was a China-flagged tanker called Sheng Hang Hua 6 that caught on fire.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) team from the West Coast Marine Fire Station boarded the Sheng Hang Hua 6 to fight the fire.

However, the situation was dire and took the life of a 30-year-old firefighter, Captain Kenneth Tay Xue Qin, on 16 May 2024.

He was a regular officer who was a rota commander with about six years of experience in the role.

What Happened? 

The SCDF released a press statement on their Facebook page with details on the tragic incident on Thursday (16 May).

SCDF stated that it arrived an hour after they were alerted about the fire, at about 1.15 am.

According to CNA and The Straits Times, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) reported seeing smoke coming out of the ship’s engine room.

CPT Kenneth was buddied up with another firefighter from the team and they were tasked to enter that engine room. You can guess how much thick smoke was in there if it was already billowing out.

As per protocol, they were already wearing their personal protective equipment.

CPT Kenneth’s buddy was putting out the fire using a water jet while CPT Kenneth “moved around the engine room with a thermal imager to detect other hot spots”.

This was confirmed by some bodycam footage that was analysed after the incident. However, it also showed CPT Kenneth facing some issues. 

This was at 3.53 am, about three hours into their dangerous duty.

His buddy tried calling out to CPT Kenneth but was met with no response. That was when he “attempted to search for him at the part of the engine room where the firefighting was being carried out”.

By then, it was already looking bad. Seven minutes after the bodycam footage showed him experiencing some issues, he was found by another team “lying at the bottom of a staircase”.

The staircase led about four metres down to a lower platform of the engine room.


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He Was Conscious and Underwent CPR 

SCDF said that he was found to be conscious but “he appeared unwell”.

This prompted them to immediately start his evacuation.

While he was being evacuated out of the engine room to an open deck on a stretcher, he lost consciousness and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was performed on him.

CPR continued throughout their evacuation, from Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal all the way to the National University Hospital via the SCDF ambulance, which was already on standby at the ferry terminal. 

Unfortunately, when they reached the hospital at about 5.50 am, CPT Kenneth was pronounced dead. 


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Captain Kenneth Was A Capable Frontline Officer 

CPT Kenneth was a Rota Commander.

Rota is short for “rotations”. Rota Teams refer to SCDF officers who take turns (shifts) to be posted at fire stations. So, Rota Commanders are leaders of the team at work.

SCDF said that all firefighters undergo rigorous training and rescue courses to ensure they can hold themselves up against unpredictable “fire, rescue and hazardous material incidents”.

CPT Kenneth had trained for 28 weeks in 2017, and he was promoted to a Rota Commander in 2020. He got a “Gold” standard for his Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) and an “A” grade for his Breathing Apparatus Proficiency Test (BAPT).

That’s not all; while he trained for five weeks in the Marine Firefighting Specialist Course (MFFSC) in 2022, he got “Distinction” in the final test of the course.

The Nation Mourns

Needless to say, his death came as a shock, but nobody can truly be prepared for dangerous situations.


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While we can be relieved that all 19 crew members onboard that tanker were safe, SDCDF and the public were deeply saddened by the loss of a hero.

SCDF extended their deepest condolences to CPT Kenneth’s family, and they will be holding a ceremonial funeral to honour him. The SCDF Facebook page and its logo has been changed to black-and-white.

Under SCDF’s Facebook post, user Eddie Tang gave a “Salute to all Frontline Fighters”.

“My greatest respect to late CPT Kenneth. My heartfelt condolences to the family” he added. This was echoed by about 400 other members of the public as of the day of SCDF’s post.

Some had also called him a hero who had “sacrificed his life in the line of duty”.


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Investigations are still ongoing and the MPA has “issued navigational broadcasts to ships to stay clear of the incident site”, said Channel News Asia. 

This is the second incident involving the death of an SCDF firefighter while on duty in the past two years.