Five killed in fiery crash

It is the highest number killed in a single traffic accident in the past decade, say police

Residents of Tanjong Pagar jolted awake by cars revving their engines at 5.30am heard a loud crash as a BMW M4 Coupe smashed into a vacant shophouse in Tanjong Pagar Road and burst into flames.

Shortly after that, a video emerged on social media showing the car speeding past and bystanders exclaiming in shock as it crashes.

The horrific accident on the second day of the Chinese New Year yesterday killed all five men in the car. They were aged 26 to 29.

The police said it was the highest number of people killed in a single traffic accident in the past decade.

A 26-year-old woman, the girlfriend of the driver, is in critical condition in the Singapore General Hospital with severe burns.

She had arrived at the scene moments after the crash, and was seen desperately trying to get her boyfriend out.

The Sunday Times understands that she suffered 80 per cent burns to her body.

Chef Mohamed Abdullah, a resident who lives on the 10th floor of a Housing Board block about 150m from the scene, said he was up for his morning prayer when he heard what sounded like cars racing in the neighbourhood.

"These cars go at such a high speed along this road, I didn't even think of looking out my window. It's shocking to know that it ended tragically," said the 48-year-old.

Mr Song Seng Wun, 60, an economist who also lives in the area, added: "I looked out of my window and saw flames (shooting from the car)." He rushed from his HDB flat to the scene about 150m away and saw a man kneeling on the side of the road.

"He was crying hysterically and begging the police officers for help, saying his friends were in the burning car," said Mr Song.

The car had crashed into 37 Tanjong Pagar Road, a shop unit previously occupied by Five Oars Coffee Roasters, which had moved out of the premises on Jan 29.

Within minutes of the tragedy, friends of the victims had gathered at the scene even as rescuers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) fought to contain the blaze.


But it was too late for the five occupants.

They were pronounced dead at the scene by a paramedic, said an SCDF spokesman.

  • THE VICTIMS

  • The six victims of yesterday's fatal crash in Tanjong Pagar had one common link - all had at one time worked as representatives for Aviva Financial Advisers.

    Of the five men who died, four were financial advisers at the firm. They are: Mr Jonathan Long and Mr Eugene Yap, both 29, Mr Elvin Tan Yong Hao, 28, as well as Mr Teo Qi Xiang, 26.

    The four were in a BMW M4 coupe with Mr Gary Wong Hong Chieh, 29, who was a former representative for Aviva Financial Advisers, when the car slammed into the front of a vacant shophouse and burst into flames at about 5.40am.

    Mr Long was the driver of the white BMW.

    His girlfriend, Ms Raybe Oh Siew Huey, 26, suffered severe burns after trying to save the men and is now in a critical condition.

    She had also worked for Aviva Financial Advisers before she became an air stewardess.

    In a statement last night, Aviva Financial Advisers said it was saddened to learn that those who died in the crash were either current or former representatives.

    "We wish to express our deepest condolences to their loved ones, and will assist the families in every way we can," it said. "Grief counsellors are also being arranged to help their colleagues cope with the loss during these sad times."

    Details about those involved in the crash emerged yesterday as messages of shock and condolences poured in from friends and family on social media.

    According to past media reports, Mr Yap was a co-founder of local bubble tea chain Bober Tea, and opened the brand's first store here in June 2018 with Mr Joseph Oh and Mr Gabriel Kok.

    Since then, the home-grown label has expanded in Singapore to eight outlets, with franchises also opening in Manila and California.

    Mr Yap's Instagram profile also said that he was a wealth manager with Aviva Financial Advisers.

    Social media posts showed that he and Mr Long had taken a trip to the United States together in February last year. Mr Yap was also pictured with sports cars and supercars in some of these posts.

    Mr Long worked for Aviva Financial Advisers as a senior financial services manager, according to his social media profiles which were taken down yesterday. Mr Long, who graduated from RMIT University at the Singapore Institute of Management's Global Education campus with an economics and finance degree, can also be seen posing with sports cars, including a blue BMW, in some of his photos.

    Mr Wong was a long-time friend of Mr Long and Mr Tan. He had studied IT at the Singapore Management University before starting a career in financial services.

    A 2019 Instagram post showed that he had also worked for Aviva Financial Advisers then, and had received certificates of achievement signed by Mr Long.

    According to his social media posts, Mr Wong was also involved in volunteer work during the Covid-19 pandemic last year. In May, he wrote on Facebook that he and Mr Long had bought thousands of face masks for distribution to needy families. "Packing everything was really tiring but it will be worth it after all," the caption read.

    Yesterday, a Facebook user, who identified herself as Mr Wong's sister, said her brother had a big heart, cared for his family and loved to help the needy.

    "But this morning, God took him away from us," she wrote.

Mr Akira Chan, 21, a friend of the victims, told The Sunday Times that the group had been at a Korean restaurant prior to the incident and "were going home when the car skidded".

The girlfriend of one of his friends in the car tried to open the door to save him and was burned as a result, Mr Chan said.

  • Previous serious fatal accidents

  • There have been several serious fatal accidents over the years. Here are some of them:

    When: April 23, 2018

    What: Lorry crash near Yio Chu Kang MRT station

    What happened: A permanent resident, then 25, was driving a lorry along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 towards Marymount Road at about 9.30am when he ploughed into and killed three pedestrians.

    The driver, who was hurt in the accident, was working as a safety supervisor for his father's construction firm and was driving the company lorry to collect a parcel.

    He had a Class 3A driving licence but not a Class 3 licence, which was required to drive the lorry.

    How the case ended: He pleaded guilty on Oct 14, 2019, to driving without a Class 3 licence and insurance.

    He was fined $1,400 and banned from driving for a year.

    While he initially faced a third charge of causing the deaths of the pedestrians by driving dangerously, he was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

    This means he can still be prosecuted later, depending on the evidence that emerges from a coroner's inquiry.

  • When: Aug 9, 2013

    What: Crash on Central Expressway chevrons

    What happened: A former logistics operations director, then 36, ploughed into a group of five people who were changing a punctured tyre just before 4am.

    The group had been standing at the back of their car that was stationary at the chevrons before the exit to Yio Chu Kang Road, so they could retrieve a breakdown sign and tools for changing the tyre.

    Only one in the group survived. The dead were a Singaporean trainee pilot, his Korean girlfriend and her parents.

    How the case ended: The driver had been drinking at a pub and was seen speeding at between 90kmh and 110kmh.

    He was also driving under the heavy influence of a drug which causes drowsiness and impairs motor skills.

    On June 19, 2015, he was given the maximum five years in jail and banned from driving for 20 years.

  • When: May 12, 2012

    What: Ferrari crash at Rochor Road-Victoria Street junction

    What happened: A Chinese national, 31, was killed after he ran a red light at a speed of 178kmh in his $1.8 million Ferrari 599 GTO, colliding into a taxi at about 4.15am.

    The crash also killed a Singaporean cabby, 52, and his female passenger, 41, who was studying here to be an interior designer.

    How the case ended: Her elderly parents reached a confidential settlement with the insurer of the Ferrari driver.

    Her parents had sought to claim over $700,000 from the driver's estate and wanted it to help make good on the gift of an $850,000 flat their daughter had promised them before she died.

  • When: June 22, 2010

    What: Workers flung off lorry off Pan-Island Expressway (PIE)

    What happened: Three Chinese nationals in their 40s were killed when the lorry they were riding in skidded and tipped over at about 7.35am on the slip road towards Thomson Road, off the Changi-bound side of the PIE.

    The driver of the Toyota Dyna lorry had lost control and the vehicle mounted and lodged itself atop a metal divider.

    The workers were flung off.

    Two died at the scene and the third died later at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

The 26-year-old woman, identified as Ms Raybe Oh Siew Huey, was the girlfriend of the driver of the car - Mr Jonathan Long, 29.

The others in the wreck were Mr Gary Wong Hong Chieh, 29; Mr Eugene Yap, 29; Mr Elvin Tan Yong Hao, 28; and Mr Teo Qi Xiang, 26.

Mr Chan said his other friends, who were also at the restaurant earlier, had witnessed the accident from across the road. They are assisting in police investigations.

Spokesmen for the police and the SCDF said they were alerted to the accident at about 5.40am.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the car had been speeding along Tanjong Pagar Road before the crash.

The speed limit there is 50kmh.

When The Sunday Times arrived at the scene at 7.50am, about 200m of Tanjong Pagar Road was cordoned off.

The Land Transport Authority had also announced a road closure on Tanjong Pagar Road, towards Murray Street, after Maxwell Road, with some bus services in the area diverted.

The victims' next of kin arrived at about 10.30am, and had to identify the bodies.

They could be heard wailing from about 30m away, as curious onlookers gathered across the road.

At around 10.50am, the police expanded the cordon to block off the whole of Cook Street and more of Duxton Hill. Those with shops in the area had to wait outside the cordoned-off area.

The victims' relatives, too distraught to speak to reporters, left the scene at about 11.30am, minutes after two police hearses headed for Singapore General Hospital with the bodies of the five occupants.

A widely circulated video lasting just seven seconds shows the white BMW speeding along the same stretch of road, before a loud crash is heard with the car out of sight. Those behind the camera can be heard exclaiming immediately after.

Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay said the organisation was deeply saddened by the news of the fatal accident, and reminded all motorists to practise responsible driving behaviour.

"Please keep within the speed limit of the roads at all times and do not drink and drive," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2021, with the headline 'Five killed in fiery crash'. Subscribe