SINGAPORE - Early celebrations ahead of the new year were cut short tragically on Sunday (Dec 29) when a car crashed through a pavement railing and plunged several metres, before landing on the exit lane of the Lucky Plaza carpark, killing two women and injuring four others.
The 64-year-old male driver, whose black Honda sported private-hire licence decals, was arrested at the scene for dangerous driving causing death.
The police said they were alerted at 4.58pm to an accident involving a car and six women along the Orchard Road shopping strip.
"Two pedestrians, aged 41 and 50, were unconscious when conveyed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), where they later died from their injuries. Four pedestrians, aged 37 to 56, were conveyed conscious to Tan Tock Seng Hospital," said the police, adding that the investigations are ongoing.
In a statement on Sunday night, the Centre for Domestic Employees said its officers found out that all six victims were Filipino domestic workers.
Adding that it was distressed to learn of the accident and was working with the authorities and embassy to render assistance to the victims, the centre said: "We will be getting in touch with the employers and next of kin to find out the support they require, and stand ready to render assistance."
The centre also urged the public not to circulate any photos or videos of the accident, and not to speculate while investigations are ongoing, out of respect for the victims and their families.
From videos circulated online after the accident, groups of people could be seen celebrating the festive season on a pavement in Nutmeg Road behind Lucky Plaza and wishing one another "Happy New Year" in Tagalog.
Loud sounds of a crash are heard before the footage cuts to a black car plunging and landing on the exit lane.
Screams of "Dead! Dead!" ensue. Several passers-by then climb down from the pavement to provide assistance.
Images of the aftermath showed at least two people lying near the vehicle, with a woman pinned underneath it. A stretch of the metal railing along the pavement was severely damaged.
In response to queries, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs said the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs will provide assistance to the victims.
The Lucky Plaza mall is popular with foreign workers, especially Filipino domestic workers.
Filipino domestic helpers Rosemarie Reyes, 41, and Liza Niez, 47, were having a gathering across the road from the spot where the accident happened. They told The Straits Times that the casualties were fellow Filipino workers having a picnic beside the railing.
"I heard loud screams when the accident happened, and we were all scared. Everyone ran over and some rushed to help, including giving CPR," said Ms Reyes.
It is understood the victims were flung from the pavement down a few metres to the carpark lane as the car plunged.
A 30-year-old technician, who gave his name only as Swamy, said he was among a group of six who helped to lift the car while another two pulled out a woman from underneath the vehicle. A Filipino performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on her, he said.
"I wanted to help where I could. It would be good if we can save at least one of the injured," said the Indian national.
ST understands that the suspect is a driver for private-hire operator Grab. He was not on any job during the accident and has since been suspended on its platforms.
When contacted, a spokesman for Grab said: "We are deeply saddened to hear about the accident and are assisting the authorities in the investigation."
When asked if the driver had just dropped off a passenger, or was on his way to pick one up, Grab declined to answer, saying that the police are investigating the case.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it received a call at about 5pm requesting assistance at 304 Orchard Road, and dispatched five ambulances to take the casualties to TTSH.
The move triggered questions among readers, with several posting comments on ST's Facebook page asking why the casualties were not taken to the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, located across from the accident scene.
ST understands that in cases involving severe and multiple trauma patients, SCDF emergency ambulances will convey them to the nearest accident and emergency department where they are equipped to deal with such cases with the necessary resources, equipment and medical support by emergency-medicine specialists.
Also, SCDF ambulances are equipped with sophisticated equipment and manned by trained paramedics and crew who are capable of performing resuscitation on patients.
At about 10pm on Sunday, a group of about 20 people were seen at TTSH, together with a few Philippine Embassy officials and Centre for Domestic Employees staff. Some were crying while making phone calls, while others were briefed by a police officer.
Mr Adrian Bernie Candolada, charge d'affaires at the Philippine Embassy here, told reporters at TTSH that two of the injured were in the intensive care unit, and another two were stable.
He added that plans were still being made for the bodies of the two who died to be repatriated to the Philippines.
Additional reporting by Yip Wai Yee