Singaporean couple in NZ crash were there to celebrate birthday

Mr Chen and Ms Ong, who got married six years ago, were also colleagues at Crestron Singapore.
Mr Chen and Ms Ong, who got married six years ago, were also colleagues at Crestron Singapore.PHOTOS: FACEBOOK/RENA ONG, CHEN ZHI HAO

They got married six years ago, and were in New Zealand for a 10-day trip to celebrate the wife's recent birthday.

But the vacation ended in tragedy for Ms Rena Ong, 29, and 39-year-old Chen Zhi Hao. They died in a car crash last Thursday after their camper van crashed into an oncoming pick-up truck.

The couple had been planning the trip since January, according to software developer Edmund Cheh, who has known Mr Chen for more than 20 years.

Mr Cheh, 39, first met Mr Chen when they were in Primary 3 at Changkat Primary School.


New Zealand police said Mr Chen Zhi Hao and Ms Rena Ong died after their camper van crossed the centre line for "unknown reasons" and crashed into an oncoming pick-up truck. The truck's driver had an arm injury. PHOTO: STUFF.CO.NZ

Husband and wife worked at audio-visual firm Crestron Singapore, based in Kaki Bukit, where Mr Chen was a technical director while Ms Ong was an operations executive.

 
 

Mr Cheh described Mr Chen as "adventurous" and someone who "loved to travel", adding that their mutual friends from primary school are still in shock.

"He was a big brother to me," he said. "He took care of his family, took care of his friends, and organised outings and chalet gatherings for us. He was very loving to his wife."

The accident occurred on State Highway 1, south of the township of Dunsandel, about 40km south of Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island.

The driver of the truck was taken to hospital with an arm injury.

Senior Sergeant Pete Stills told New Zealand media that the camper van that Mr Chen and Ms Ong were in had crossed the centre line for "unknown reasons" and crashed into the other vehicle.

The couple had left Singapore on Wednesday for a 10-day trip to celebrate Ms Ong's 29th birthday, which fell on April 26.

One of Ms Ong's former classmates at CHIJ Katong Convent, who gave her name only as Ms Nicole, said Ms Ong was a friendly and loving person.

"She was an easy-going friend, always there to help when she could," the 29-year-old housewife told The Sunday Times yesterday.

While the couple did not have any children, a colleague of theirs said they had recently started planning for their first child.

The colleague, who did not want to be identified, said she first learnt of Ms Ong and Mr Chen's deaths on Friday, when Crestron Asia-Pacific chief executive Stuart Craig broke the news to the office.

"Most of us broke into tears," she said, adding that staff had been allowed to take the day off to grieve.

When contacted, Ms Ong's family declined to comment. The family of Mr Chen could not be reached. The Sunday Times understands that the earliest the bodies can be brought back to Singapore is May 17.

• Additional reporting by Zhaki Abdullah and Ng Jun Sen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 07, 2017, with the headline 'S'porean couple in NZ crash were there to celebrate birthday'. Print Edition | Subscribe