S'pore group recounts horror; SUTD student 'doing well'

Mr Huang (far left), at a screening of a Euro 2016 football match in France with his friends the week before the Bastille Day attack. He had left the Promenade des Anglais shortly before the truck ploughed into the crowd.
Mr Huang (far left), at a screening of a Euro 2016 football match in France with his friends the week before the Bastille Day attack. He had left the Promenade des Anglais shortly before the truck ploughed into the crowd.PHOTO: COURTESY OF HUANG JING JIE

The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) student who was injured in the attack in Nice is doing well in hospital, his schoolmates said. But some of them also recounted the shock and the panic they experienced on Thursday night.

It was simply luck that took Singaporean student Huang Jing Jie away from the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, he said. Shortly after leaving, a truck ploughed into a crowd there, killing 84 people and leaving scores injured. He and the SUTD schoolmate he was with had decided to leave five minutes before fireworks ended on Bastille Day.

They wandered into a church instead. Minutes later, the doors were shut and people were crying. They thought there might be gunmen shooting outside. "We hid in the church for about 20 minutes before they opened the doors," said the 23-year-old, part of a group of SUTD students on a summer programme in Nice. They rushed back to their hostel 30 minutes away where they found out what really happened.

Another SUTD student Monica Nathalia Haryanto, 20, had intended to see the fireworks on Bastille Day, but by the time she arrived, it had already ended. Still, the second-year computer science student, who was with two other schoolmates and an American student they had met from the exchange programme, stayed behind for a concert.

Suddenly, people around her started screaming and running, she said. "In panic, we followed them at first but stopped after a while since we didn't know what was happening," said Ms Haryanto. "Then police told us to run."

She was just 2km away from where the attack began. "Everyone started running as fast as they can," she told The Sunday Times yesterday. "We got pushed but we made it unharmed to the city."

They eventually made it back to the hostel on foot. "People were crying. All I could think about was my family back home," she said. "It was really confusing and scary..."

Back at the hostel, the students did a roll call. But fellow SUTD student Esmond Chuah was nowhere to be found. Mr Chuah, a 22-year-old Malaysian, had headed to the beach - further down from where Ms Haryanto was.

Mr Huang said the SUTD group, who are at the European Innovation Academy on a three-week programme that started on July 3, was worried something had happened to him. "We couldn't contact him... Someone told us they saw him going into an ambulance," he added.

They heard from him only the next day, when Mr Chuah contacted them using a nurse's cellphone.

Mr Chuah had injured his back in the Bastille Day attack and remains in the hospital in a stable condition.

Students who visited Mr Chuah yesterday said he is recovering and could even joke with them.

A Singaporean man was also among those injured during the attack in Nice, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

His injuries are not life-threatening, it said in a statement on Friday. All Singaporeans in Nice who registered with the MFA are known to be safe, the ministry confirmed.

Some of the SUTD students are still recovering from the incident.

"Ambulance sirens can still be heard quite frequently even until now," Mr Huang said. "There are a lot fewer people on the streets."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore group recounts horror; SUTD student 'doing well''. Print Edition | Subscribe