CTE crash: Painful memories for victim's father

Mr Ayoub Ahmat said he had considered scrapping the family's Toyota Wish as it brought back painful memories of his son.
Mr Ayoub Ahmat said he had considered scrapping the family's Toyota Wish as it brought back painful memories of his son.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

No grudges held, but victim's father urges drivers to be more responsible

It has been almost two years, but he still remembers the phone ringing that early morning.

It was Aug 9, 2013, the second day of what was supposed to be Hari Raya Puasa festivities.

But that call sent Mr Ayoub Ahmat, his wife and their three daughters rushing to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where his son, Mr Amron Ayoub, 23, died of multiple injuries following a car crash.

Yesterday, in an interview with The Straits Times after the man responsible, former logistics operations director Toh Cheng Yang, was sentenced to five years in jail, Mr Ayoub said he had lost more than a son.

"He was also a friend. He and I could talk about anything," said the 53-year old who works in the aviation industry.

Mr Amron was a cheerful, adventurous young man who would lead his family on vacations to skydive, and coax his three younger sisters into making handcrafted gifts for their parents.

He and his father also planned to go to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. "They were very expensive," Mr Ayoub said of the tickets. "But he told me, 'Don't worry. I will pay you back after I start working.' "

Sitting in the living room of his Hougang home, where he had spent many hours watching football with his son, Mr Ayoub said the memories of the accident still hurt.

Mr Amron had been driving his South Korean girlfriend Jamie Song Jisoo, 24, her brother and their parents to Changi Airport when the car had a flat tyre. Mr Amron stopped the car at the chevrons located at the Yio Chu Kang exit on the Central Expressway. As they were retrieving the tools needed from the boot of the car, Toh crashed into them.

Only Ms Song's older brother Seoung Hwan survived.

Mr Ayoub had considered scrapping the car his son had been driving as it was hard to sit behind its wheel without thinking of the tragedy. "But I believe that time will heal the wounds. There is no point trying to run from painful memories," he said.

When Ms Song's two brothers visited Singapore last year to claim the last of her belongings, Mr Ayoub ferried them to the airport in the same vehicle.

Both families were close, and tragedy knit them more tightly together.

Mr Ayoub recalled Ms Song asking him about Islam about a year into her relationship with his son.

"That was when I knew it was quite serious," said Mr Ayoub, smiling. "I did ask him if he wanted to marry her, and he said he wanted to finish his flying course (to become a pilot) first. He would have graduated last August."

As Mr Ayoub spoke, soft sobs from his wife could be heard coming from one of the bedrooms where she would stay whenever visitors mentioned Mr Amron. His belongings lie in an adjacent room, piled up but otherwise largely untouched.

Mr Ayoub insisted that he holds no grudges against Toh, and that his family has forgiven him.

But he urged drivers to be more responsible.

"Because when you cause accidents, it can have far-reaching consequences for other families," he said. "We cannot stop accidents, but we can minimise them. It is the responsibility of every driver to play his part."

The sole survivor of the accident could not be reached yesterday, but his Facebook page remains a poignant reminder of what he lost. Its cover photo shows his sister and parents with the Gardens by the Bay in the background.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg