Man tells of attempt to save victims in fatal Bedok North fire as six residents get SCDF award
A man who lives next to a fourth-floor flat that caught fire in a Bedok North block has spoken of his attempt to rescue its occupants who were trapped inside.
Despite having an elderly mother who uses a wheelchair, Mr Willie Toh, 45, went to check on his neighbours when he realised their unit was ablaze.
The logistics driver said he saw a man in his 30s at a window calling for help.
"He passed me a set of keys and begged me to save him," Mr Toh said, adding that he managed to unlock the wooden door as the blaze raged inside. The metal gate was already open.
Mr Toh said: "No one came out. I don't know why. I inhaled some smoke and couldn't take it any more. By then, I remembered my mother was still in our unit and I had to save her.
"I (still) feel very sad. I saw them but could not save them."
With the help of a neighbour he did not recognise, who carried his 67-year-old mother, Mr Toh managed to leave the block safely.
The May 13 fire at Block 409 Bedok North Avenue 2 killed three people - a 56-year-old woman who died at the scene, and a man, 35, and a three-year-old girl, who both died in hospital. The toddler's mother, 34, remains in hospital.
Mr Toh was one of six residents who were lauded for helping their neighbours as they received the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Community Lifesaver Award from Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for National Development and MP for the Kampong Chai Chee ward, on Sunday.
The award is presented to members of the public whose actions involve an element of self-risk or who contributed to saving lives.
Mr Tan said: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the Bedok North fire. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones during this difficult time.
"I would like to thank the six good Samaritans for their brave actions which have prevented further loss of lives. They exemplified the kampong spirit that we are so proud of at East Coast."
Giving an update on the injured woman's condition, Mr Tan said: "For the lady, who is (still) in the intensive care unit, we have got in touch with her immediate family members and are providing them with accommodation and to link up with the necessary agencies to support them in this period."
One of the other awardees, Mr Chiong Hai Weng, 63, went to alert his neighbour, 101-year-old Madam Goh, who lives with her granddaughter and is hard of hearing, after he saw smoke rising from a unit below.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Chiong said: "We have been neighbours for seven years. My wife would give her cakes sometimes. I was relieved her granddaughter was at home, otherwise even if we had knocked and knocked, she might not have heard us and realised there was a fire."
He told the Goh family to put on masks and wait for the smoke to subside before leaving their unit safely.
Also receiving the award were two brothers, Cheng Ping Peng, 14, and Cheng Ping Chen, 13, who ran door to door to warn their neighbours about the fire.
The others are Mr Neo Jia Wei, 35, a project manager, and Ms Goh Yun Yi, 27, a property manager with the East Coast Town Council. They were recognised for their efforts to guide residents to safety at Heartbeat@Bedok.
Rota commander Kane Teo Kian Hong of Kallang Fire Station received an additional mention for stopping to help residents when the fire broke out while he was heading to work.
Rushing over to help, he found a woman in her 60s lying down in an eighth-storey stairwell as she was feeling unwell. He carried the senior all the way down so SCDF paramedics could assess her.
"In our line of work, every second matters. All I wanted to do in that moment was to get everyone down safely," the officer said.
"I would advise members of the public not to panic (in a fire). Make sure you are safe first, then start to save others."