Photographer who died in KL car crash remembered for his big heart

Photographer who died in KL car crash remembered for his big heart

The late Franco Toh was known among his friends for his passion in photography and music.

But most of all, they remember him as a "straight-talking guy" who was always keen to help people.

"I had known him since the 1990s and we kept in touch over the years," said Mr Ash Narayan, 43, who owns DJ school Pop Trash.

"We did several dance music events together over the years and Franco was never the sort to let negativity get in the way of work.

"He was unassuming and non-judgmental towards people, not to mention very encouraging towards event promoters as well.

"I was shocked when I heard of his death."

Mr Toh, 43, and Kwek family scion Kwek Kon Chun were killed in a high-speed car crash just outside Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Mr Kwek, the 35-year-old nephew of billionaire Kwek Leng Beng, lost control of his Porsche 911 Turbo on the KL-Seremban Expressway at about 2.30am in Desa Petaling, hours after winning a race with the car at Sepang.

The nightlife entrepreneur co-owned Neverland Group, which runs several nightspots including club Sonar at Orchard Hotel, Neverland II at St James Power Station and Pixie Mansion (formerly Neverland KL) in Kuala Lumpur.

CAREER

Mr Toh, who was single, was a Singapore citizen who was born in Hong Kong. He was Neverland Group's regional marketing director, a job he took about three years ago, sources said.

Before that, he worked with studios doing commercial portraits. In the early 2000s, he went into concert photography, working with clubs such as Zouk as well as with other independent club promoters.

Mr Brendon Perera, 49, who is known professionally as DJ Brendon P and was a resident DJ at Zouk from 2001 to 2009, said: "I first met him at Zouk around 2005.

"I was shocked to hear of his death.

"He was a nice guy who was very passionate about the clubbing scene."

DJ Kenneth Francis, 42, remembers Mr Toh as a "big-hearted person" who never lost his cool even when working under pressure.

"I met him around 2006, when he was contracted to take pictures of DJs who played at the now defunct Ministry of Sound at Clarke Quay," said Mr Francis, who is the entertainment manager with lifestyle and hospitality group Limited Edition Concepts.

"He was very professional, but what struck me was his warmth. Franco was a mentor to young photographers who wanted to enter the world of concert photography.

"I was looking at his Facebook account earlier and I saw many of them writing on his wall, thanking him for giving them the opportunity."

The New Paper tracked down several photographers who got their start in club photography after meeting Mr Toh, but they declined to speak in respect of his family's privacy.

Yesterday, Shin Min Daily News quoted a girlfriend of Mr Toh saying that he had gone to Malaysia with Mr Kwek to photograph the race.

Meanwhile, Mr Kwek's family said in a statement yesterday that the family "is still in shock at the untimely death" and requested to be allowed to "grief in private".

The statement added: "Mr Kwek was a non-executive director of Tasek Corporation, a subsidiary of Hong Leong Asia, and pursued his own entertainment businesses outside the group.

"His father, Mr Kwek Leng Keow, is the managing director of Hong Realty, the private property company within the Hong Leong Group Singapore. He was also the nephew of Hong Leong group director, Mr Kwek Leng Peck."

Mr Kwek's wake will be held at 11, Tanglin Hill.

The funeral mass will be held at 3pm at the Church of St Ignatius on Thursday. The cortege will leave after mass for Mandai Crematorium Hall 1 for cremation at 5pm.

zothman@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 11, 2014.
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