Last Singapore victims of Bangkok blast return

Ms Betty Ong, who was hurt in the bomb attack at the Erawan Shrine on Aug 17, receiving a hug from a relative at the airport last night.
Ms Betty Ong, who was hurt in the bomb attack at the Erawan Shrine on Aug 17, receiving a hug from a relative at the airport last night.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Four members of Ong family fly home, two siblings to get further treatment at SGH

The last remaining Singaporean victims of the Bangkok blast returned home last night, 12 days since the worst bomb attack on Thai soil took place.

Semi-retired administrative executive Betty Ong, 69, along with her younger sister Jane, younger brother Wesley, and his wife Jennifer, 41, arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 2 on flight SQ979 from Suvarnabhumi Airport at around 9.30pm.

Wheeled out by airport staff, Ms Jane Ong, 59, was seen wearing new plastic spectacles that were made with the help of staff at Hua Chiew General Hospital.

Her spectacles had been blown off and damaged on impact during the blast.

Mr Ong was also in a wheelchair, his right leg still bandaged, but the 53-year-old gave a frail smile when met by their welcoming party.

"Singapore Airlines upgraded us to business class and Wesley had a medic from Thailand with him all the while," said his wife.

Four family members and a friend were at the airport to welcome them back with hugs.

"The worry we had cannot be described in words," said the siblings' brother Roy Ong, 64.

On their annual holiday in Thailand, the family of four was at the downtown Erawan Shrine in Bangkok to offer their prayers when two blasts ripped through the busy Ratchaprasong intersection. All four suffered partial hearing loss.

The elder Ms Ong needed six stitches on her left thigh while her siblings' injuries were more serious and they needed two operations each.

Her younger sister had to undergo one operation to remove shrapnel in her leg and another to remove fragments in her forehead.

Mr Ong had his first operation for screws to be inserted to join the bone of his right shin which was broken by bullet pellets. He needed a second high-risk operation to remove a 5mm bullet pellet that had pierced and torn his colon, and to mend the tear.

After more than a week of recovery, Mr Ong was cleared to fly by the doctors on Friday morning, and the Singapore embassy and Thailand's Ministry of Tourism and Sports facilitated their return.

A 5mm bullet pellet still lodged in the muscles of Mr Ong's left thigh will not be removed because it is near a tendon and nerves.

The Ong siblings are recovering well from their injuries, but the trauma from the horrors they saw is going to take a longer time to heal. They still suffer from nightmares.

A mini-van was arranged by the family to head directly to Singapore General Hospital, where Mr Ong and his sister Jane were scheduled to be admitted to receive further treatment and checks.

"We are thankful to the doctors and nurses at Hua Chiew General Hospital, as well as the Singapore embassy and Thailand's Ministry of Tourism and Sports for helping us with the evacuation," said the elder Ms Ong.

The attack at Erawan Shrine on Aug 17 killed 20 people, many of them foreigners, and injured over 100 others.

One of those killed was Singaporean Melisa Liu Rui Chun, 34.

This incident has taught the Ongs to be more cautious.

"But we will go back to Thailand again. It was just wrong time, wrong place, wrong day.

"It can happen anywhere," said Mrs Jennifer Ong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Last S'pore victims of Bangkok blast return'. Print Edition | Subscribe