They were about to swim at a condominium pool when they saw a maid and another woman waving at them for help.
"I thought they were just asking us to help pick something up from the water," said Miss Louisa Tay, who lives at Evergreen Park condominium in Hougang.
But the 21-year-old student was shocked to see her boyfriend, full-time national serviceman Kenneth Tan, dive to the bottom of the 1.5-metre- deep pool and emerge with a young girl in a pink swimsuit.
Mr Tan, who was visiting Miss Tay on his day off, swam almost the entire length of the pool to reach the drowning girl.
The incident happened at around 4pm on March 27, and Mr Tan's act of courage was posted on the Singapore Army's Facebook page on Wednesday. (See report at top.)
The corporal told The New Paper yesterday that he had only one thought on his mind - to get the girl out of the pool as quickly as possible.
The girl, believed to be about seven years old, was unconscious by then.
"She wasn't moving the whole time," he said.
Mr Tan immediately performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on her.
"It was my first time encountering something like this, so I felt nervous. But saving her life was my priority," he said.
After a few rounds of chest compressions, Mr Tan performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
It was then that she regained consciousness, and started to cough and spit out water.
"The scene was quite chaotic. The maid kept screaming for help, so the atmosphere was tense," Mr Tan said.
Miss Tay said that the girl had been in the pool for about two minutes and it took about five minutes for her to be revived.
"After some time, she started to cry loudly and kept crying even after my boyfriend and I left," said Miss Tay.
The couple were invited to dinner by the girl's parents last Saturday.
Miss Tay said the mother told her that the girl was giddy and unusually quiet when they got home after her close shave.
So the maid called the girl's mother, who went home and took her daughter in a taxi to a Hougang Central clinic, which was unfortunately closed.
The mother added that the girl's eyes were closing and she looked like she was fading, so they rushed her to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, Miss Tay said.
The girl was found to be running a fever of about 39 deg Celsius and was admitted for one night.
Speaking about her boyfriend's heroism, Miss Tay said: "I'm very proud of him."
Mr Tan said he was happy that the girl is alive, or it would have been a huge blow to her parents.
"During dinner, they told me that it may have been a small matter to me but to them, it was big," he added.
Mr Tan, an auto technician with the 9th Army Maintenance Base, said that it was thanks to his CPR training in Basic Military Training in June 2012 that he was able to save the girl's life.
His commander, Military Expert 4 Lin Si Yuan, commended Mr Tan's "brave and selfless act".
The Depot Commander of the 93rd Forward Maintenance Depot said: "His quick thinking and swift reaction to the situation show that the Army trains and prepares our soldiers to respond effectively to different situations, including emergencies."
He added that Mr Tan's composure in performing CPR showed the relevance of the training that the Army provides to daily life.
NSF's quick reaction praised
More than 650 people have commented on and praised Mr Kenneth Tan's brave act, which was posted on the Singapore Army's Facebook page at 6.20pm on Wednesday.
Since then, it has got close to 9,000 likes and was shared more than 600 times.
Facebook user Lawrence Teh said: "Well done, Kenneth. Not just for keeping our SAF flag flying high, but above all, for saving the girl's life."
Another user, Walter Loo, commented: "Absolutely marvellous! Greatest news is when a life that can be saved is eventually saved - thanks to the CPR training given to our servicemen and servicewomen. Well done!"
Mr Tan, proud to have done his part, said: "I didn't know an act like this would be recognised by so many people."
This article was published on April 11 in The New Paper.
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