SINGAPORE - About an hour before his afternoon duty in September, Senior Staff Sergeant Roland Teo, 39, was playing with his teenage daughters at home.
They were in the living room when his older daughter said: "Daddy, I see a pair of legs dangling outside."
Shocked to see a six-year-old boy dangling from the 30th storey, the police officer dashed out of his flat to save the struggling child. The incident happened on Sept 4 at an HDB block in Lorong 1 Toa Payoh at about 1pm.
Senior Staff Sgt Teo was to report for work at the Bukit Timah Neighbourhood Police Centre at 2.30pm that day.
He was playing a mobile phone game with his daughters, 13 and 15, when he looked out the balcony and "got a shock when I saw a boy hanging onto the grilles".
Senior Staff Sgt Teo, who was still in his home clothes, ran out of his flat on the 29th storey and up the stairs to find the boy gripping the grilles from outside the air-con yard.
He said: "My only thought was to save him. I wasn't thinking about anything else."
Senior Staff Sgt Teo added that there was a middle-aged woman, who identified herself as a neighbour, standing in the corridor, looking anxious.
She had called the police, but Senior Staff Sgt Teo feared the boy, who appeared to be struggling, would lose his grip before the police arrived.
Senior Staff Sgt Teo said: "If I didn't do anything and he fell, I wouldn't be able to live with the guilt."
So he took off his sandals and climbed over the corridor wall onto a ledge about 5m from the boy.
"When I reached the end of the ledge, I looked down. I could see all the way down and I hesitated for a moment,"he said.
There was a gap of about 1m between the ledge and the air-con yard grilles the boy was holding on to.
Senior Staff Sgt Teo straddled the gap to reach the boy.
He said: "If I had slipped while saving the boy, it would be the end of us. But I told myself that I could do it - just don't look down. "I did a split, stretched over and grabbed the boy before quickly planting both my feet back on the ledge."
Senior Staff Sgt Teo added that the boy looked shocked, but was obedient and clung to him.
He carried the boy towards the corridor before handing him to the middle-aged woman.
The boy is believed to have climbed out of his kitchen window. He is also believed to have been alone at home at the time as Senior Staff Sgt Teo said the woman had repeatedly knocked on the door of the boy's flat, but no one answered.
He also said that although this was not the most dangerous thing he had done, it was the first time he had attempted a high-rise rescue. The rescue took about three minutes and his colleagues arrived soon after.
It was fortunate that the child did not fall, said Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.
"Thank goodness they have an ordinary hero in the community. We're always taught to mind our own business, but this ordinary hero stepped up to help," she said.
Dr Balhetchet also added that because more children are being left at home alone while both parents are working, it is important for neighbours to foster good relationships and look out for each other.
She said: "If the family can't afford paid help, knowing your neighbours means you can depend on the community for help and a good support system, such as in this case."
Senior Staff Sgt Teo's colleagues now call him Spider-Man, drawing similarities between him and the masked superhero because of his courageous act.
He had initially kept mum about the incident, but his actions came to light when his name was mentioned in the police report.
"I didn't feel the need to tell anyone because it is my duty to save people whenever I can," he said.
When The New Paper visited the boy's flat, our knocks on the door went unanswered.
This article was first published on Oct 29, 2015.
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