SCDF officer nearly crushed during rescue

Senior Station Inspector (SSI) Akbar Alim, deputy team leader from the Kampong Java Neighbourhood Police Centre, testified on 27 February 2014

A rescuer who had crawled under the bus that ran over and killed a man in Little India to recover the victim's body pinned underneath, was nearly crushed by the 41-seater vehicle.

This happened after an angry crowd around the bus started pushing and shoving against the vehicle, causing the hydraulic jack used by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers to raise the bus for the extrication to collapse.

The rescuer, an SCDF officer, got away just in time, and even managed to pull the victim's body out in the process, said Senior Station Inspector Akhbar Ali.

The deputy team leader from the Kampong Java Neighbourhood Police Centre was testifying on Thursday on day seven of the Committee of Inquiry into the Dec 8 riot.

In a video clip taken from an SCDF vehicle that was shown during the public hearing, the bus, which had been raised on its left rear end, was seen collapsing from the rocking caused by the crowd's shoving. "The hydraulic jack suddenly gave way," said SSI Akhbar.

The 44-year-old was one of the first responders to the scene of what was initially reported as a traffic accident.

He told the inquiry that his main priority at the time was to fend off the unruly crowd, which was pelting the bus with projectiles during the rescue operation.

He was also seen in the video trying to calm down some of the foreign workers, even as one man was shoving him and gesticulating in his face.

This was the first time that the committee heard how the lives of SCDF officers were put in peril as they carried out the extrication.

Previous witnesses said that while projectiles were pelted in the direction of the bus, they were aimed at the bus driver and timekeeper, who were then seeking refuge on the vehicle.

The court also saw footage taken from Land Transport Authority closed-circuit television cameras, of SSI Akhbar's vehicle being flipped by rioters.

He said he was "frustrated" by the mob overturning his car, but did not intervene because rocks were "raining" down on him even as he was trying to control a separate crowd.

He sustained a few cuts and scratches on his head.

"It was the first time in my life I saw something like that," said the policeman of 25 years.

"The people near my car were jumping and clapping, and (from) the way they shouted, it was like they were so happy."

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