NTU student dies in freak accident in Slovakia

Mr Tan was found unconscious by a rescue crew after the accident.
Mr Tan was found unconscious by a rescue crew after the accident.PHOTO: TV NOVINY
Mr Tan was found unconscious by a rescue crew after the accident.
Mr Tan was found unconscious by a rescue crew after the accident.PHOTO: TV NOVINY

Avid climber was driving alone when car was struck by falling tree during storm

A Singapore undergraduate died last Friday in Slovakia after the car he was driving was struck by a falling tree during a storm.

Mr Justin Tan, 23, who was on an exchange programme in the Czech Republic, was driving alone in neighbouring Slovakia to a hiking trail when the tragedy struck.

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) mechanical engineering student was found unconscious by a rescue crew and never regained consciousness after the freak accident.

His parents and younger brother flew to Slovakia last Wednesday, said NTU in a statement. His family agreed to donate his organs to patients in Slovakia and will cremate his body there before returning to Singapore with the ashes.

Mr Tan would have approved - he was someone who would help others to the best of his ability and he always encouraged his friends to chase their dreams, said his brother Malcolm.

"He once told me that if he left this world, he would donate his organs," added the 21-year-old, who did not confirm when his brother's ashes will return to Singapore.

A talented climber who represented Singapore in youth sport climbing championships in 2011 and 2012, Mr Tan had looked forward to the hiking opportunities during the programme, which started in September, said Mr Mohammed Ashraf, 23, a fellow NTU student and climber who had been friends with Mr Tan since their days in Serangoon Junior College.

"He had been posting a lot of photos on social media. Whenever he could, he would just drive out and go somewhere for a trek or hike," added Mr Ashraf.

"He was pretty mischievous, but had a serious side as well. He was really into climbing."

The sudden death of the outgoing, avid sportsman left his friends in shock and disbelief.

"Justin was an adventurous person," said another 23-year-old NTU student on exchange in the Czech Republic. He declined to be named. "He was very resilient, and still went hiking in the Polish Tatra (mountains) although he was recovering from a fracture."

Mr Tan had suffered a back injury from a climbing accident in Australia just months before the exchange programme, but had worked hard to get back on his feet.

Said Mr Rasip Isnin, secretary of the Singapore Mountaineering Federation, where Mr Tan was an instructor: "He was a disciplined athlete and we will certainly miss him."

President of NTU, Professor Bertil Andersson, said the university was doing all it could to assist and support Mr Tan's family and his schoolmates to help them cope with the emotional impact of the tragedy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'NTU student dies in freak accident in Slovakia'. Print Edition | Subscribe