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Tampines accident: Family, friends paint picture of close siblings

Older son had volunteered to fetch brother from school in place of mum

Published on Jan 30, 2013 10:22 AM

ON MOST days, Madam Suliani Ang would have gone to pick up her younger boy Donavan Yap after school.

But on Monday, her older son Nigel volunteered to take her place. Donavan, seven, was attending his first wushu lesson and would finish only at 5pm - an hour before the start of Madam Ang's shift at McDonald's.

Nigel, just 13, did not want his mother to be late.

He cycled to Tampines North Primary School to pick up Donavan, but never made it home with his brother.

The two boys were run over by a cement mixer truck at the junction of Tampines Street 45 and Tampines Avenue 9, just 300m from their home.

A day after their tragic death, friends and family painted a picture of Nigel as a responsible son and doting big brother.

According to Madam Ang's younger brother Helmy Sarpan, 32, it was Nigel who encouraged his mother to return to work, saying he was "already grown up" and could look after Donavan for her.

Madam Ang had stopped work last year to take care of her two children, and took up part-time work at the fast-food restaurant last month to supplement the family's income.

Dad was Mr Francis Yap, 39, a third warrant officer and transport supervisor with the Singapore Armed Forces. He worked in the day, while Madam Ang - an Indonesian-born Singaporean - took on the night shift.

The brothers were inseparable, said Mr Sarpan.

"Whatever the younger brother wants, (the older one) will give it to him," he told The Straits Times in Mandarin.

Both boys were known for being helpful, friendly and fun-loving.

Donavan had recently performed a dance to the hit song Gangnam Style during their church's 12th anniversary concert. The family attends Sembawang Assembly of God in Tagore Lane.

"We chose him to dance that because he is chubby and cute," said his uncle.

It was for the same reason that Donavan, a Primary 2 pupil, had wanted to take up wushu lessons.

"His mother suggested volleyball but he insisted on wushu instead, and the mum said OK."

Nigel, a Secondary 2 student at Springfield Secondary School and a member of the school's robotics club, was known for his nimble hands.

Mr Sarpan said: "He has a talent for taking apart and assembling model cars."

He was not so good at football, but that did not stop him from playing.

"He may not have been a great player, but he was a very good sport," said a schoolmate who wanted to be known only as Alan. "He was a friendly boy who would always ask to join in our games."

The Yaps' neighbour, Mohd Danial, 13, remembered Nigel for his friendliness. He said: "When my bicycle tyre punctured, (Nigel) helped me take it to a shop."

Danial, along with about 200 relatives, teachers, students, church friends, army servicemen and strangers, turned up at the boys' wake yesterday.

Tampines GRC MPs Heng Swee Keat, Baey Yam Keng and Masagos Zulkifli were also present, along with Chief of Defence Force Neo Kian Hong.

Amid the grief and sympathy, questions about how the accident happened remain unanswered.

Mr Baey told The Straits Times that the cement mixer was likely heading to a nearby Build-to-Order Housing Board project via Tampines Street 45 where two blocks are being built.

There is also an MRT construction site nearby.

It is understood that the boys were crossing the traffic light junction, but it is not yet known whether the lights were in their favour.

A 56-year-old Singaporean driver was arrested at the scene on Monday and is assisting police in their investigations.

At the mortuary yesterday, the bodies of the two boys were identified by their mother, who emerged from the viewing gallery in tears, and had to be helped up.

At the wake, she was seen wailing and pounding the coffins of her only children, who will be cremated at Mandai Crematorium tomorrow.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Yap said he had taught his sons how to cross roads safely, adding that Monday was not their first time out on a bicycle together.

Sadly, it turned out to be their last.

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Background story


Whatever the younger brother wants, (the older one) will give it to him.

- Mr Helmy Sarpan, 32, Madam Ang's younger brother, recalling how the two affable and gregarious brothers were inseparable


We chose him to dance that because he is chubby and cute.

- Mr Sarpan, recounting how Donovan (right) had recently performed a dance to the hit song Gangnam Style during their church's 12th anniversary concert