Singaporean diver went missing at a "much calmer" spot in the ocean

Singaporean Neo Qiu Ping Vera, who died while diving in Indonesia on Sunday, had been at a supposedly "much calmer" spot in the waters off the island of Gili Lawa in Komodo National Park.

The group of 11 divers and a local divemaster had moved there because of strong currents at their previous location, their local tour guide who was on the boat told The Straits Times yesterday.

But Ms Neo, 27, failed to return after the dive and was reported missing on Sunday evening. Her body was found the next day at about 11am near a dive site at Gili Lawa.

The group, travelling with tour agency Komodo Trails, had started their dive at The Shotgun, one of Komodo's famous diving sites known for its rip currents, at about 4pm on Sunday, the second day of their five-day diving trip, said Mr Putu Sudiartana.

They had been underwater for about three minutes before the currents became too strong, he said. "My role as a guide is to protect the guests, so we decided to get out of the waters," he said in Bahasa Indonesian. "We then went somewhere else where the waters were much calmer."

When the group returned to their vessel at about 5pm, he was told Ms Neo had not surfaced. The boat captain called the authorities to report a missing passenger. He said the group had shown they could "dive well" during a check dive on Saturday.

Mr Ooi Kang Sheng, who was one of five Singaporeans on the trip, declined to comment when contacted and would only say: "We are focusing on bringing Vera back to Singapore with us."

Her body is at Siloam Hospital in the nearby town of Labuan Bajo.

Additional reporting by Malavika Menon

This article was first published on April 26, 2016.
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