Elderly Chinese man helped by Hindu devotees dies

Mr Ong Peck Hock's wife Bessie and their son at his wake yesterday. The retiree, who had a history of heart attacks, collapsed in Serangoon Road on Sunday and was helped by Mr U. Silvakumar and other devotees on their way to a fire-walking ceremony.
Mr Ong Peck Hock's wife Bessie and their son at his wake yesterday. The retiree, who had a history of heart attacks, collapsed in Serangoon Road on Sunday and was helped by Mr U. Silvakumar and other devotees on their way to a fire-walking ceremony. Thanking him and the devotees, Mrs Ong said: "I appreciate and salute them for helping to revive him."PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR STRAITS TIMES
Mr U. Silvakumar
Mr U. Silvakumar

An elderly man, who was helped by devotees heading to a fire-walking ceremony after he collapsed in Serangoon Road on Sunday, has died.

Mr Ong Peck Hock, 68, a retiree, died at Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Sunday, said his wife, Mrs Bessie Ong, 60, a stenographer.

He had shown signs of response right before he was taken away in an ambulance but doctors later told her that he had "a slim chance of survival" due to a lack of oxygen to his brain.

She said her husband had a history of heart attacks, with his first attack in 1999 and the second in 2007. After the second attack, he was in a coma for nine days and was warded in the intensive care unit of a hospital. Doctors said he had six months to live, but he defied their prediction.

But Mr Ong, who also had diabetes, had started developing a bad cough two weeks before his death, said Mrs Ong.

Yesterday evening, Mr U. Silvakumar, a 58-year-old army military expert, paid his respects to Mr Ong at his wake at Block 107, Towner Road, along with his son and about 10 other devotees who had tried to help the man.

Mr Silvakumar had performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Mr Ong after the latter collapsed. Other devotees clad in ceremonial attire had also tried to help.

The images of them forming a circle around Mr Ong to help him were widely shared online and became an Internet sensation.

Mrs Ong, who thanked Mr Silvakumar and the devotees at the wake, said: "I appreciate and salute them for helping to revive him."

On Sunday, Mr Ong had pushed his electric bicycle to a nearby petrol kiosk as one of the tyres was flat.

After filling it with air, he cycled to the nearby temple as he was curious about the fire-walking ceremony that was taking place.

After he collapsed, a devotee found his mobile phone in his pocket and called his home.

Mrs Ong, who answered the call, rushed to the scene immediately. Mr Ong appeared pale and weak as she accompanied him to the hospital in an ambulance.

It was Mr Ong's weekend routine to ride his electric bike to explore nearby places, such as Mustafa Centre, said Mrs Ong.

After he retired in 2009 due to his heart condition, he took care of the household and enjoyed shopping for groceries.

"He was very frugal, so he would make it a point to compare the prices," she said.

"He was very, very caring. Up till his last day, he would worry about our son, and whether he had eaten his meals," she added.

"He would prepare dinner for us every day without fail. I never missed his dinners. But now... ," she said, her voice trailing off.

The couple have a 25-year-old son, who recently graduated from university.

She said she loved his fried rice dish cooked with olive oil, spring onions and eggs the most.

"Everyone has to go one day. Nobody could have predicted what happened," she said.

Yesterday, Mr Silvakumar was given the Public Spiritedness Award by the Singapore Civil Defence Force in a ceremony. He said he would not hesitate to help a stranger again.

"I think everybody should try to help, regardless of colour or religion," he said.

Mr Silvakumar said he first learnt CPR in 1982 and used it on another occasion in 2009 when trying to help a man at an airport in Jakarta.

He also tried to help those affected by the Jakarta Marriott hotel bombing that year. He was staying at an apartment near the hotel where he was working when the explosion happened.

VIDEO
Mr U. Silvakumar recounts Sunday’s incident at http://str.sg/4YqK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'Elderly Chinese man helped by Hindu devotees dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe