He scoops away debris so trapped driver can breathe

HERO: Mr Kalai Chanthiran (above) stopped his bike at the crash site and ran to help. Passersby were scooping the debris away with bare hands.

 As on most days, Mr Kalai Chanthiran was using the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) to get home to Johor on Wednesday morning.

The Malaysian had just finished his shift as an auxiliary police officer and he was in good time to get to the Tuas Checkpoint.

But this morning was different.

The first sign that something was not right was a traffic jam on the expressway, which almost never happens at that time - about 8.50am - in that direction, towards Tuas.

As he inched his motorcycle forward, he saw the cause - a tipper truck had toppled onto a taxi, spilling much of its cargo across the three lanes.

Beneath it, the taxi was a mangled wreck.

The 32-year-old would soon become one of the many unsung heroes who did their part to save the two men trapped inside the taxi.

He told The New Paper on Friday: "I quickly stopped my bike at the side and ran to help. Five or six people were already there, using their bare hands to scoop the truck's contents from the taxi."

The mess looked like damp cement, but he could also see pieces of concrete and broken tiles, much like construction rubble.

"We managed to clear off some of the debris so the driver inside could get fresh air," Mr Kalai said.

SCDF ARRIVES

About 10 minutes later, the first Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer arrived on a motorcycle, followed soon by the rest on several vehicles.

Some drivers stopped at the roadside to get the vehicles' licence plate numbers.

"But other drivers came out to help clear the debris. Someone even had a shovel," Mr Kalai said.

As the SCDF rescuers worked to free cabby Ng Kim Beng and his passenger, Mr Vincent Ng, they were worried about cutting through the taxi in case it could not support the truck's weight.

The estimated weight of the tipper truck is seven tonnes.

Mr Kalai said: "I was talking to another Malaysian beside me and we saw some cranes stuck in the jam.

"So we thought, why not ask them to help lift the truck?"

He said the other man ran towards a crane while he tried to look for other heavy vehicles that could help. Mr Kalai, the man and SCDF officers rallied five cranes.

They were all coordinated by another passer-by, Mr Alex Yeo Kok Chye , who received the SCDF Public Spiritedness Award with three crane drivers and a former SCDF medic, on Friday.

The cranes lifted the truck, and the rescuers quickly cut through the mangled taxi, freeing the cabby.

Medical staff from the National University Hospital (NUH) had arrived and were administering painkillers and fluids to Mr Vincent Ng.

He was freed about an hour later and both men were taken to NUH.

But Mr Kalai didn't stick around to see that. He had to rush home as his wife was waiting for him.

He said: "I'm happy both of them are okay. I wanted to do what I could to help. Whether in Malaysia or Singapore, I would do the same."

About the crash

A tipper truck carrying worksite rubble went out of control, toppled and crushed a taxi on the ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) near the Tuas West exit just before 9am on Wednesday.

Conscientious motorists and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) worked together to pull off a sensational rescue.

Concerned the taxi might crumble further under the truck's weight, the SCDF roped in the help of three nearby cranes to lift the truck.

Within 30 minutes, rescuers got to cabby ng Kim Beng, 46.

His passenger, Mr Vincent ng, was trapped by the passenger seat, which had folded over his hip.

He was rescued 90 minutes after the accident happened.

Both victims were taken to hospital, where they were warded.

Mr ng Kim Beng had an operation on Friday for spinal injuries.

His condition is stable. The section of the AYE affected by the accident was closed for about seven hours.


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