TheStraits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016 - Ashvin Gunasegaran

Crash victim's comfort

When two cars collided at a traffic junction, he was the only one who went forward to help while everyone else was snapping pictures.
Ashvin with a cap inscribed with his name that was presented to him by Ms Yu as a token of appreciation for his help when she was involved in an accident in Yishun in May.
Ashvin with a cap inscribed with his name that was presented to him by Ms Yu as a token of appreciation for his help when she was involved in an accident in Yishun in May.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Unlike most of his friends, 12-year-old Ashvin Gunasegaran does not have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.

"I prefer to go outside more. If I'm on social media, I'll be spammed with too many messages," said the Yishun Primary School pupil who recently completed his Primary School Leaving Examination.

But for someone with no desire for social media presence, Ashvin became a Facebook darling in June, as people shared the exploits that made him the youngest recipient of the Singapore Civil Defence Force's Public Spiritedness Award since its introduction in the early 1990s.

Ashvin's sister Laava, 25, had posted a photo taken by one of his schoolmates showing Ashvin staying with and helping the victim of a car accident.

It happened on May 31 at about 1pm after two cars collided at the junction of Yishun Ring Road and Yishun Avenue 2.

Ashvin, who had been walking home from school with his friends, heard the collision.

While a group of about 10 adults gawked and snapped away with their phones, the boy's first instinct was to dash out to the busy junction. He insisted on checking on the victims, despite his five friends warning him that the cars were emitting smoke.

The first driver he went up to was Ms Jocelyn Yu, who was pregnant. The 32-year-old managing director at a marketing company appeared shaken.

"They thought there might be an explosion and told me to come back, but I said that she needs my help, and you can't watch people suffer without doing anything," recounted Ashvin.

Having learnt from a safety talk at his school that he should try to help people in an accident, Ashvin yanked at Ms Yu's car door, but it was stuck. He asked a tearful Ms Yu, "Madam, are you okay?", words that she later said offered her immense comfort.

Ms Yu said she felt helpless and desperate when she was trapped in the car. The left side of her body was numb and she had lost her glasses, impairing her vision.

Then Ashvin turned up.

"It gave me a lot of bravery because I was really scared," said Ms Yu, who presented the boy with a cap inscribed with his name as a token of appreciation when she met him in June.

Ashvin's father, assistant engineer A. Gunasegaran, was surprised by the amount of attention surrounding his son's deed.

"This is something normal that other children could also have done, it just so happened that he was seen doing it. We believe in karma, that you should help others when you can," said the 53-year-old.

And Ashvin's message to those who opted to gawk instead: "It was sad to see how everyone was so connected to their phones and technology that the first thing they thought of was that they needed to take pictures, instead of about caring about others."

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Ashvin on why he stepped in to help str.sg/ashvin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 25, 2016, with the headline 'Crash victim's comfort'. Print Edition | Subscribe