Singaporean heroine of Hong Kong guesthouse fire dies

Ms Zhang braved the fire to alert other guests to the danger. In doing so, she inhaled too much smoke, and oxygen flow to her brain was cut off.
Ms Zhang braved the fire to alert other guests to the danger. In doing so, she inhaled too much smoke, and oxygen flow to her brain was cut off.

The Singaporean ballroom dancer who fell into a coma after she helped to evacuate a burning guesthouse in Hong Kong last December died in hospital here last Friday.

Ms Tiara Zhang Zhi Zhen, 33, had been on a Christmas holiday with friends at the Yesinn guesthouse when a fire broke out early on Dec 29.

Instead of fleeing, she rushed to alert other guests, hammering on doors and helping people to flee the smoke-filled firetrap.

But in the process, she inhaled too much smoke. The oxygen flow to her brain was cut off, her heart stopped and she was unconscious by the time she was taken to hospital.

She later fell into a coma which she never came out of and her elder brother confirmed at her Jurong wake yesterday that she died in Singapore General Hospital (SGH) last Friday.

Ms Zhang worked here as an account director at events marketing agency George P. Johnson.

She has represented Singapore in ballroom dancing competitions such as the 2009 Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam.

The blaze, which started after nearby construction debris caught fire, cast a spotlight on Hong Kong's regulation of guesthouses. Many are located in residential buildings which critics say may not have the infrastructure to cope with large numbers.

Altogether, 25 people were injured in the fire, seven critically. Ms Zhang was flown back to Singapore in February after more than a month in a Hong Kong hospital.

She was warded in the intensive care unit at SGH, with her breathing supported by a machine.

Long-time friend and associate lecturer Gavin Low, 36, said: "She was someone who had a very strong will, so I was hopeful that she'd be able to make it."

 

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