Metres from safety, he could have fled from the burning house.
Instead, he covered his nose with a grey cloth, armed himself with a small black torch and dashed into the flames to save his son.
Both did not make it out alive.
When the fire was put out, the father was found on top of his son, in a tragic embrace.
The fire, which occurred at a semi-detached house at Jalan Gaharu, off Rifle Range Road, last November, had started at about 4am.
It was so intense that The New Paper reported that the heat had damaged nearby property and melted bicycles.
Mr Tan Boon Chong, 53, and his son, full-time national serviceman Chee Phang, 22, died in the fire.
Their bodies were found in their bedroom by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters, who extinguished the fire after two hours.
These details emerged yesterday during a coroner's inquiry into their deaths.
The court heard that Mr Tan Boon Chong had been a tenant of the house for three to four years. The house was owned by a Ms Mary Lee.
Mr Tan Boon Chong's younger son would stay with him during the weekends.
His wife and elder son live in Malaysia.
The house was also occupied by Ms Lee's godmother, Madam Ng Moi Yong, 63, a nun who has a temple in Malaysia, and three other Filipino tenants.
The court heard that Madam Ng had set up several altars inside for her own prayers and for Singaporeans who had visited her temple in Malaysia.
The investigation report said that the night before the fire, Mr Tan Boon Chong was talking to Madam Ng and her helper before they returned to their rooms to sleep.
Mr Tan Chee Phang had turned in only later. At about 11pm, one of the Filipino tenants saw him using his mobile phone.
At about 4am on Nov 17, Madam Ng was woken by the smell of smoke.