By Chong Shin Yen
HE WAS in the ambulance that was rushing his dying friend to hospital.
As Sia Chan Hong, 16, screamed in pain from the injuries he suffered from falling nine storeys, his friend, Carl, then 17, simply sat there and looked at him.
There were no words of comfort, no holding of hands, no empathy.
He told The New Paper: 'Console him for what? He was going to die anyway.
'He was screaming in pain and I couldn't even make out what he was saying.'
Carl, now 18, added that he overheard the paramedics saying that Chan Hong had broken his spine and neck. He said he knew there was no hope.
Chan Hong, a Secondary Four student, died at Changi General Hospital two hours later.
Is this any way for a close friend to react?
Perhaps he, like his friends, was immature, as State Coroner Victor Yeo surmised.
Even today, he maintains a nonchalant attitude.
Carl was part of a close-knit group of eight boys who entered a suicide pact on 23 Aug last year.
The group's leader, Ku Witaya, 16, told them that they had to kill themselves so they could be resurrected as slayers and save the world.
In an interview with The New Paper, Carl laughed as he recounted the events of that fateful morning.
They had wanted to hold hands and jump off the roof of Witaya's block at Jalan Damai.
But the door to the roof was locked and the eight boys, aged 12 to 17, decided to jump from Witaya's ninth-floor flat at Block 667.
Yesterday, Mr Yeo recorded a verdict of suicide for both Witaya and Chan Hong.
Carl said that while they were in Witaya's bedroom, one of the boys cried when he realised that the rest were serious about going ahead with the plan.
Andy, 17, was afraid and wanted to back out. So they mocked him. (We are not using their real names following a court order against naming the surviving members of the pact.)
Carl was tight-lipped when asked about what Witaya - the leader of their group and a self-professed medium - told them in the room.
But he was candid and, at times, amused when he described how Andy had tried to persuade them to give up their plan.
Carl recounted animatedly: 'He (Andy) was sitting on the floor crying, stomping his feet like a little child and begging us not to do it.'
When asked if any one of them had consoled Andy, Carl replied: 'No, we were all laughing at him. He's so big(-sized) and he was wailing and flailing his arms like a spoilt child.'
Carl said that the mocking went on for about 15 minutes. The group then decided to lie to him to get him to leave the flat.
'We repeatedly told him that we won't jump, and he finally agreed to go home,' he said.
Andy took a cab home to play online games. He was convinced that his friends had changed their minds and so did not sound the alarm.
After Witaya and Chan Hong leapt out of the window, Carl and two others climbed onto the window ledge and prepared to jump.
But the three, together with the two boys in the room, changed their minds after hearing Chan Hong moaning in pain below.
Carl recalled how Andy was still playing games when he called to tell the latter that Witaya and Chan Hong had jumped.
'At first, he thought I was joking. But he later rushed to the scene in a cab,' he said.
Carl and one of the boys went down to check on Witaya and Chan Hong.
Puffing on a cigarette, Carl said he had tried to turn Witaya's head over to check his breathing. But he changed his mind after seeing the latter's face covered with blood.
Witaya was pronounced dead at the scene. Carl was the only one among the group who went with Chan Hong in the ambulance.
When told that Chan Hong's maternal grandmother and uncle had looked at photographs of the two boys' bodies in court, Carl turned cocky.
He said: 'Where's the kick in looking at photographs? You want to see, you must see the real thing - like me.'
Carl's rebellious streak also came through as he spoke about how he did not like going to school.
He dropped out of school this year and is now working in a factory while waiting to enlist for National Service.
He and some of the boys in the group had attended the same secondary school.
Following the deaths, their principal called them into his office to talk to them.
Carl said that they poked fun at the principal instead.
'We didn't want to listen to his nonsense, so we started mocking him about how his nose hair was peeking out of his nostrils,' he said.
He added that he was a 'nightmare' to his teachers and he had attended school for only about 100 days last year.
'I'm known to be a terror in the school and no one dared to get close to me,' said Carl.
'Among the eight of us, Chan Hong was the only studious one. He excelled in his studies and was in the express stream.'
So how did Chan Hong end up in their group?
Carl shrugged his shoulders and looked away.
Besides poking fun at his principal, Carl was equally cocky when he related how the group did not want to co-operate with their psychiatrists.
The boys had to attend psychiatric assessments at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) following the incident.
Laughing loudly, Carl recalled: 'Whatever the psychiatrist asked, we just replied 'don't know' or 'can't remember'.
'Initially, they wanted to admit us into IMH for further review, but all of us threatened to commit suicide in there.
'In the end, they had no choice but to let us go home.'
His boast could not be verified with IMH due to patient confidentiality.
Lied to police
Carl also said the group was not forthcoming with the police in the beginning.
They told the police that they had gone out for supper and did not know what happened.
'The police officer was fuming mad when we refused to tell them the events leading up to their deaths,' said Carl.
'We decided to tell him the truth only because someone had already spilled the beans.'
The group remains close till today.
During the two-day coroner's inquiry, the boys, including Andy, sat close together, whispering and giggling as each took turns on the stand.
On weekends, the group would hang out together at one of their homes or at shopping centres.
Carl said their parents all know each other. His parents also did not scold him when he told them what happened.
He said he did not really believe in Witaya's tales about slayers and demons.
'I don't believe in Witaya's theories. I just believed in him as a friend,' he said.
Throughout the two-hour interview, the only time Carl showed a tinge of sadness was when he spoke about how one of their birthdays was also the death anniversary of Witaya and Chan Hong.
The night before the boys decided to carry out the suicide pact, the group had celebrated the boy's birthday with a barbecue at Pasir Ris Park.
Said Carl: 'We promised each other to visit Witaya and Chan Hong's niches four times a year - during the Qing Ming Festival, on their birthdays and on our other friend's birthday.'
When asked if they would celebrate the boy's birthday or pay their respects first, Carl was quick to reply: 'Celebrate first then visit (their niches), like what we did this year.'
This article was first published in The New Paper.