Duo who saved drowning boy receive newly introduced SCDF award

Colonel Alan Toh, Commander 2nd SCDF Division (centre), and award recipients Ms Silvia Hajas (left), 47, housewife, and Mr Tan Kian Choon (right), 53, self-employed, posing with the SCDF Lifesaver Award.
Colonel Alan Toh, Commander 2nd SCDF Division (centre), and award recipients Ms Silvia Hajas (left), 47, housewife, and Mr Tan Kian Choon (right), 53, self-employed, posing with the SCDF Lifesaver Award. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

SINGAPORE- Contractor Tan Kian Choon, 53, was walking with his wife along East Coast Park on May 8 when they were approached by a frantic woman who had just dragged a boy out of the sea.

Ms Silvia Hajas, 47, asked for help to rescue two of four boys struggling in the water. She had heard their cries and dove in to try to save them earlier.

However, after rescuing two boys, she was too tired to continue on her own.

Mr Tan agreed to help her, despite initially thinking it was a false alarm.

He had seen the boys in the water while walking past but did not see that anything was amiss. It was only when Ms Hajas approached him that he realised something was wrong.

"We thought the boys were just playing in the water. Everything just changed in a matter of seconds," Mr Tan said.

 
 

He helped Ms Hajas while his wife, who had a near-drowning experience as a child herself, worried for her husband's safety.

"I was more worried about the boys instead of my husband. I knew he could swim," said Madam Yvonne Gan, 48, a housewife. The couple have three children.

Mr Tan himself felt the same way. He said it only occurred to him that he was risking his life after he untied the flotation device.

"It was only for a split second. Once I was in the water, all concern for my safety went away," he said.

Despite their efforts, one of the boys drowned and died. The body of Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian,12, was found three hours later by the Singapore Civil Defence Force's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team.

Yesterday, Mr Tan and Ms Hajas were the first recipients of the SCDF's new Community Lifesaver Award (CLA).

The CLA and the Community First Responder Award (CFRA) were rebranded from the Public Spiritedness Award this month.

The CLA, which is the more prestigious of the two, is presented to members of the public whose actions involve an element of self-risk and who contribute in saving lives.

The CRFA awards citizens for acts such as extinguishing a minor fire in a common area and helping to direct traffic during a road traffic accident for the safety of the victims.

At the award ceremony, which was held at the 2nd Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Division Headquarters in Tampines, the duo recalled how they worked together to save the boy.

"We didn't talk during the entire thing. We just went out together and brought that boy back," said Ms Hajas. Both she and Mr Tan received a medallion, a CLA certificate and a collar pin for their efforts.

When asked how he felt receiving this award, Mr Tan said: "I feel very honoured but it's really not a big deal. You just must know when to help someone."