SINGAPORE - He seldom swam and it was his first time diving.
On Monday, Dr Lee Yong Yeow's 75-yearold mother said she regretted not stopping him from going on the diving trip that claimed his life.
"He was filial. From young, he was always wellbehaved," she said in Mandarin, tears welling up.
Her son, 35, a researcher with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) died on Saturday in the waters off Pulau Tioman island in Malaysia.
Malaysian papers identified the location as Pantai Air Batang.
His instructor, Mr Tan Seah Heng, 48, also drowned.
Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Zainul Mujahidin Mat Yudin, the deputy police chief of Rompin, Pahang, said the incident took place around noon as Dr Lee and his wife were with their instructor practising their diving skills about 25m from the beach, the New Straits Times reported.
Dr Lee's wife suddenly realised the two men were having some difficulties before she surfaced and screamed for help.
Though some people managed to bring the victims to the beach and tried giving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), it was too late, ASP Zainul Mujahidin reportedly said, adding the case has been classified as sudden death.
The owner of dive centre Ray's Dive Adventure, from which the pair had each rented a tank on Friday, said Mr Tan was a freelance instructor who often brought students to Tioman.
Mr Reynolds Esteva said that when Dr Lee's wife first pulled her husband's body to shore, he immediately went over to administer CPR, evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported.
"As we were doing so, someone else noticed there was another person, 25m from the shore. "So I asked my colleague to take over while I went out to bring that person back."
He said he checked their tanks after the incident and discovered Dr Lee had finished using all the tank's air, while Mr Tan was left with just 30 bars of air.
"Under normal circumstances, the dive should stop when just 50 bars of air is left," he said.
A veteran Singaporean diving instructor told The New Paper on Sunday that it was "unheard of" for an instructor and his trainee to perish in the same incident.
He said it was highly unlikely the men had used the same tanks to go diving over two days, as air tanks usually cannot last a full day.
About 50 to 80 people were at Dr Lee's wake on Monday afternoon. It was held at the void deck of a block of flats at Bedok Reservoir Road.
Dr Lee's wife declined to be interviewed.
His mother, who declined to be named, told TNP that the couple were married for just two months.
She said the two met while Dr Lee was studying for his PhD at the National University of Singapore.
His wife was working there.
Dr Lee's father, 76, told Shin Min Daily News that the couple had bought a flat after their wedding and planned to move in next year.
The second of three sons, Dr Lee was a late bloomer who completed his primary school education in seven years instead of six, The Straits Times said in a 2011 report.
His father told Shin Min Daily News that Dr Lee was expelled from a school for various reasons, and was transferred to another school. At this second school, he was elected class chairman and gained confidence, doing well in his studies.
The report was a supplement featuring research and development careers. Dr Lee had started a company with his colleagues from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) to sell their invention of a miniaturised drug screening platform.
IBN executive director, Professor Jackie Y. Ying, said in a statement on Monday that Dr Lee was an "outstanding researcher...also an extraordinary person who is well-loved by his colleagues."
When TNP visited Mr Tan's wake on Monday, three women who declined to be named, said they could not comment under the circumstances.
Get The New Paper for more stories.