National softball player killed in Johor accident had fascination with motorbikes

His fascination with motorcycles started at a tender age after his father took him for joyrides on his motorbike.

His father's love for two-wheelers rubbed off in a big way on Mr Leonard Sim Kiang Kai, who got his first motorcycle licence at 18.

After he got his own motorbike, he would head off at least once every two months on rides to places such as Malacca, Johor and Phuket.

Tragically, it was one of these rides that led to his death.

Mr Sim, 26, a national softball player who won bronze medals in the 2007 and 2011 SEA Games, was killed after crashing his two-month-old BMW R1200GS Adventure dual sport bike in Malaysia early on Tuesday.

Malaysian newspapers reported that he lost control of the high-powered motorcycle and crashed into the rear of his friend's bike at the 58.6km mark along the North-South Expressway Southern Route near Kluang.

He died on the spot from head injuries. Kluang police chief, Assistant Commissioner Mohamad Laham, said Mr Sim and his friend, who suffered minor injuries, were heading to Singapore from Ipoh, Perak.

He said: "The surface of the road was clear and dry, and it was bright when it happened."

This is the fourth reported death of a Singaporean on Malaysian roads in the past two weeks.

On Saturday, Mr Sim and three friends left Singapore on their motorcycles for Penang in the north of Malaysia. On Monday evening, they rode to Ipoh, about 160km from Penang.

After dinner, Mr Sim and a friend started their return journey to Singapore on their bikes, while the other two friends stayed behind.

But Mr Sim never made it home.

FRIEND

Spotted limping at the wake yesterday evening, his friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Rylee, 24, told The New Paper: "The accident happened so fast. I felt a huge impact (from the rear). The next moment, I was rolling on the road and he was lying down, gasping."

When he got up to check on Mr Sim, his friend was still conscious. Mr Rylee then tried to seek help from passers-by, and when he got back to Mr Sim, his friend blacked out.

Mr Rylee called the police and for an ambulance before phoning Mr Sim's brother, Mr Linus Sim, 25, in Singapore.

Paramedics later pronounced Mr Sim dead at the scene.

Mr Rylee, who had scrapes and bruises from the fall, said they became close friends after Mr Sim visited the motorcycle shop where he works as a sales adviser.

"He was a bike enthusiast and knew more about them than I did," Mr Rylee said.

Mr Sim's sister, Madam Lavina Sim, 31, told TNP: "Our dad took us out on his bike a lot. (They were) simple rides, such as going out for a Sunday ride and exploring Singapore.

"He also showed us videos and magazines about motorcycles."

The business development manager added: "Leonard always had an interest in bikes. It probably started when he was in Primary 2 after he began to understand what motorcycles actually are."

His aunt, Ms Kathleen Sim, 52, said: "He was nurtured to like bikes. He was a very careful rider, so we really don't know what happened. His mother is in a bit of denial, but she's holding on.

"He was an obliging nephew. I needed to buy a phone for my brother the other day. Leonard made a comparison of choices for me and suggested mobile plans. He would go all out to help everybody."

When Mr Sim's body arrived in Singapore for his wake at about 11.30pm on Tuesday, more than 500 family members and friends were waiting at the void deck of his Serangoon North block.

The friends included his schoolmates, biker friends, softball students and even his primary school teacher. Mr Sim had worked as a part-time softball coach at various schools and clubs.

His passion for softball also led to him finding the love of his life, Miss Lina Goh, who also plays the game.

Miss Goh, 25, his girlfriend of six years, was in Bali for a holiday with her friends when the accident happened.

Her aunt, Madam Ivy Goh, 57, revealed that the couple were planning to tie the knot soon.

She said: "My brother's close friend thought Lina was with Leonard, so he called Lina. She suspected something was wrong, and found out the unfortunate news. But it's life, there's no choice."

Mr Sim's aunt said: "All my nephews and nieces are brought up very well, but he's very special in his own way.

"Everybody has a bucket list. His is empty because he did everything he wanted to."

He made training fun, say students

Likeable. Encouraging. Fun.

These are just some of the words used to describe Mr Leonard Sim, 26, at his wake.

Mr Sim, who was killed in a motorbike accident in Johor on Tuesday, was a softball coach in schools and clubs, including East Spring Secondary School, Anglo-Chinese Junior College and the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC).

The national softball player was part of the Singapore team that took part in the 2007 and 2011 SEA Games, and won the bronze medal in both years.

One of his former East Spring Secondary students, who declined to be named, told The New Paper: "He was a respectable coach. Normally, you think of training as being very tough. But he made it different and fun."

Mr Sim built strong bonds with his students, who remember him for making training enjoyable with his warm personality and words of encouragement.

Student Marcus Seah, 15, who was coached by Mr Sim at SRC, said: "He would always give encouraging comments such as 'good catch!'. And when we do push-ups as punishment, he would join us and do them, too."

Marcus added that Mr Sim helped him overcome his shy and awkward demeanour.

"The way that he opened up in his coaching helped me to be more open with people now," he said.

Another trainee at SRC, Ivan Seow, 15, said: "With Mr Sim, when you made a mistake, he could immediately tell you what was wrong."

Different terrain, extra caution

Singaporeans driving overseas should take extra care because of the differences in speed limits and road terrain, say road safety experts.

Mr Gerard Pereira, 58, the operations manager of the Singapore Safety Driving Centre, said: "Drivers in Singapore mostly drive in urban conditions. They are constantly reminded of the presence of pedestrians and cars turning out of side roads.

"On Malaysian highways, drivers see only grass and long stretches of plantations. Sometimes, animals may even stray onto the highways."

Nanyang Technological University transport consultant Gopinath Menon, 70, said: "In Singapore, our topography is flat and there are few roads with undulating terrain, steep grades and sharp bends. All these need some skills to negotiate.

NOT FAMILIAR

"Many Singaporean drivers are not familiar with driving at high speeds because our highest speed limit is 90 kmh."

Mr Pereira added: "I've observed many Singaporeans going at 120kmh, even 130kmh, on Malaysian expressways, perhaps because they are unable to drive at such speeds in Singapore.

"They just accelerate and forget that they could potentially cause harm to themselves and other drivers."

He also noted the existence of "air pockets" on some stretches of highway.

"On the North-South Highway after Johor towards Malacca, there is an open valley where strong winds can blow through.

"These winds can cause a car to drift, and drivers can lose control, causing accidents to happen."

Mr Menon advised motorists to be familiar with the traffic rules of the country they are visiting, and to remember that they are in unfamiliar territory and will take longer to get to their destinations.


This article was first published on September 15, 2016.
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Mr Pereira said drivers should map out their route before starting their trip, such as finding out about the road terrain, the rest stops along the way, and also the weather.