Tribute to Nicoll Highway hero at Tampines park

Tribute to Nicoll Highway hero at Tampines park
Mrs Sally Heng, the widow of Mr Heng Yeow Pheow, who lost his life helping his workers to escape the chaos of the Nicoll Highway collapse on 20 April 2004, sitting on the bench at Tampines Park dedicated to her husband’s memory.

Ten years ago, foreman Heng Yeow Pheow lost his life helping his workers to escape the chaos of the Nicoll Highway collapse.

Yesterday, a park bench in Tampines was dedicated in honour of the man now known as Hero Heng.

His widow Sally Heng, 45, and children, Daniel, 20, and Joann, 18, chose Tampines Tree Park because the family had gone there often.

"I'm proud that my father stood firm by his values and beliefs. I'm proud that he selflessly went forward to save his co-workers, even though he knew the danger ahead," said Daniel, an army regular, to the neighbours and friends who gathered at the park yesterday to show their support.

Mr Heng, then 40, was one of four people killed on April 20, 2004, when MRT tunnelling works for the Circle Line led to a massive cave-in and collapse of Nicoll Highway.

His body was never found as rescuers had to call off the search due to the unstable ground.

Yesterday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to unveil the new metal bench with a plaque honouring Mr Heng.

Addressing the group in Mandarin, his daughter Joann, a polytechnic student, said: "These 10 years have been very difficult for us, but thanks to all your support, we have made it through.

"Thank you for remembering his bravery, and thank you for watching my brother and I grow up," she added, wiping away tears.

At the dedication ceremony were some of Mr Heng's former colleagues and bosses from engineering and construction company Kori Holdings, including three of the eight workers he saved.

One of them was a tearful Mr Phornamdaeng Thiticha, 46.

Said the Thai national, who had worked under Mr Heng for 10 years before the accident: "It's been a long time already but my heart still feels for the family.

"I really thank him on behalf of the workers and the company."

The memorial bench is part of the year-old Adopt-a-Bench programme in Tampines Changkat.

The constituency's Citizens Consultative Committee is covering the cost of this bench, which comes to $1,500.

Ms Irene Ng, an MP for Tampines GRC and grassroots adviser for Tampines Changkat, said she hopes the tribute "will serve as a lasting reminder to future generations that we had a hero among us".

Madam Cheryl Chew, 47, who has lived next door to the Hengs for over 20 years, said that husband and wife used to babysit her son when he was younger.

After Mr Heng's death, things were very difficult for Mrs Heng because the children were very young, she said. "We try to talk to her and help her not to dwell on painful memories."

The two families and others often eat dinner together and have steamboat meals on special occasions such as birthdays or Chinese New Year, she said.

"I'm proud of her because her children have grown up to become very mature and well-behaved," Madam Chew added.

Yesterday being Father's Day, Daniel said he would have liked to tell his father that he loves him.

"When I book out from camp and come home, I still like to take a walk in the park," he said.

"Having the bench there... makes me feel like my father is there to give me the support I need, like providing a platform for me to have a rest during the night."

joseow@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 17, 2014.
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