PIE accident victim had hoped to go home soon

Bangladeshi national Toffazal Hossain, 33, was one of 17 migrant workers travelling in a lorry when it collided with a stationary tipper truck. He died later in hospital.
Bangladeshi national Toffazal Hossain, 33, was one of 17 migrant workers travelling in a lorry when it collided with a stationary tipper truck. He died later in hospital. PHOTO: TOFAZZAL PATWARY / FACEBOOK

A phone call about Ramadan between Mr Zahirul Islam and his nephew Toffazal Hossain a few days ago turned out to be their last.

Mr Toffazal, 33, died after an accident on the Pan-Island Expressway on Tuesday morning on the way to a worksite in Woodlands. The Bangladeshi national was one of 17 migrant workers travelling in the back of a lorry that collided with a stationary tipper truck.

"I just spoke to him two days ago to ask if he could fast at his dormitory," said Mr Zahirul, 34, a safety coordinator who stays at another dorm in Kranji. He added that Mr Toffazal had been anxious to return home after paying for his mother's open heart surgery, but did not have enough funds to do so.

"Around six months ago, he called me to borrow money to go to Bangladesh to visit his mother (who is in her late 50s)... If he had left Singapore, he might not have had this accident," said Mr Zahirul, who last saw his nephew over a year ago before circuit breaker measures prevented them from meeting in person.

Speaking to The Straits Times from Bangladesh, Mr Toffazal's cousin described him as the sole breadwinner of his family. He had worked in Singapore for more than 10 years, said Mr Md Saiem.

Born and raised in Rakhalia village, Mr Toffazal leaves behind his parents, his two-year-old son and wife. He has three older sisters and a younger brother, 27, who is interning in a medical college.

Mr Toffazal's father Tofayel Ahmed, who is in his 60s, teared up as he recalled his last phone call with his son on April 17. "He said he would try to visit us in two months, before Hari Raya Haji," he said.

Mr Toffazal had not been home since he got married in 2018. Because of their mother's health, his brother Abdul Aziz has not broken the news to her. "All we have said is Toffazal met with an accident and is in hospital and needs her prayers," he said.

Their father, Mr Tofayel, also recovered from Covid-19 a month ago. "He is still weak. My brother told me to take care of our father and he would help send any money required. My brother was like a friend to me. I do not know what to do now," Mr Abdul Aziz said.

Mr Toffazal's body is expected to be flown home to Bangladesh on Sunday. Non-profit group ItsRainingRaincoats is in touch with his family to offer grief counselling.

Additional reporting by Nilanjana Sengupta

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2021, with the headline 'PIE accident victim had hoped to go home soon'. Subscribe