Officers in besieged ambulance fled before it was torched

Officers in besieged ambulance fled before it was torched
Staff Sgt Yaacob took shelter in the back of the ambulance after he was injured by a projectile when he tried to reverse the vehicle.

MOMENTS before an ambulance was torched, officers seeking refuge inside in the heat of the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year were told to run.

"I shouted to the rioters, 'I'm a medic, we come here to help you,'" said Staff Sergeant Yaacob Kamis, 50, at the Committee of Inquiry into the riot on Tuesday. "Then one of them shouted to us, 'You all run, you all run.'"

This exchange occurred after an overturned police vehicle in front of the ambulance was torched, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulance medical orderly of 29 years.

Eight officers - two traffic policemen, two Certis Cisco auxiliary police officers and four SCDF officers - were inside.

"One police officer asked my paramedic to be strong, then the door opened and we ran," said Staff Sgt Yaacob, adding that it was opened by several men from the mob.

One of those on board was Station Inspector Muhammad Adil Lawi, who has told the committee that the decision to evacuate was not borne out of cowardice but because "the threat was very real".

Staff Sgt Yaacob took shelter in the back of the ambulance after he was injured by a projectile when he tried to reverse the vehicle.

While he was in the back, a man climbed on board and toyed with the engine switch. He said: "(The man) tried to turn on and off the engine."

An APO on board has told the committee that he heard the foreign worker say in Tamil: "I want you all to die today."

The ambulance was set on fire shortly after they ran.

When asked if the outcome would have been any different if they had stood their ground instead, the SCDF officer said: "I think it would be better to run than fight, for our own safety."

COI chairman G. Pannir Selvam said: "I'd do the same if I were you."


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