An elderly man died and his wife needed surgery for her burns after a pre-dawn blaze at a Hume Avenue condominium unit yesterday.
Seven other members of the family, including the couple's two grandchildren aged two and eight, had to be rescued from their bedrooms as the fire spread quickly, and made it impossible for them to escape.
The couple's younger son, 29-year-old Timothy Ng, climbed down from the window of the seventh-floor unit to the floor below, after failing to open the main door. He went back up to open the door from the outside, and helped his parents out of the burning unit.
But his father, retired businessman Alvin Ng Swee Seng, 68, later died at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), after suffering burns to 70 per cent of his body. His wife, retired teacher Moreen Ng, 69, suffered burns to 24 per cent of her body, including her face and ears.
She was seen at SGH with aluminium foil on her face, likely used to help reduce the burning sensation.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted at 5.35am to the fire, which involved the contents of the living room of the unit at Hillview Green condominium, located near The Rail Mall in Upper Bukit Timah Road.
When the SCDF arrived, three people had already fled from the unit. The other residents - the elderly couple's older son, two daughters-in-law, two grand-daughters and the family's two maids - were rescued from their bedrooms.
They were taken to National University Hospital and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. Mr Timothy Ng asked not to be sent to hospital.
He told Shin Min: "When I escaped with my father, he could still walk out on his own."
He said his father had had heart problems in the past, and that the death could be partly due to that, not entirely due to the burns. He did not wish to comment further when The Sunday Times contacted him yesterday evening.
At SGH yesterday morning, friends and relatives of the Ngs were in tears as they shuttled in and out of the Accident and Emergency department. One family member said: "My uncle passed away." She declined to comment further.
Neighbours said the Ngs had been living at the condominium for more than a decade.
"They are a big family, and very nice neighbours," said Mr Jimmy Yeu, 47, who lives on the same floor as the Ngs.
Another seventh-floor neighbour, Mr M. Sumeeth, said he had woken up at about 5am and later heard people shouting.
"I thought people were fighting, then neighbours asked me to quickly leave the flat, so I took my wife and son down," said the 35-year-old, who works in a bank.
Outside, he saw thick black smoke billowing out of the unit. The fire took about an hour to extinguish, said Mr Sumeeth, adding that it "was pretty big".
About 100 residents were evacuated and gathered at the estate's tennis court. The cause of the fire, which was put out with water jets, is being investigated.
•Additional reporting by Priscilla Goy