MRT pioneer Terry Hulme, who mentored scores of civil engineers and helped with the rescue of survivors during the Hotel New World collapse, has died after a brief illness at the age of 88.
His wife Thia, 64, said Mr Hulme, who is British, died in hospital in Southbroom, South Africa, on March 15, after being admitted for a minor stroke.
"He had made a full recovery by the next day, and I was expecting him home," she told The Straits Times over the phone. "But on Tuesday night, he went into a coma and he was gone the next day.
"It was a big shock for me. I've known him since I was 17."
Mr Hulme was a founding member of the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Society (Singapore) (TUCSS). Its president Kulaindran Ariaratnam said: "He would still walk the tunnels with us when he was in his 70s, and we had a hard time keeping up with him. He was a very active man. We actually sent him an invite to our 20th anniversary celebration on Aug 25. But sadly, he's gone."
Former Land Transport Authority (LTA) deputy chief executive T. S. Low, 70, said Mr Hulme was "much respected and much loved by many in Singapore".
Mr Low recalled how Mr Hulme planned the rescue of trapped survivors of the Hotel New World collapse in 1986. Local rescue personnel did not have disaster experience and the authorities decided to call upon tunnelling experts who were here for the first MRT projects. Mr Hulme helped save many victims, said Mr Low.
LTA chief tunnel engineer Ow Chun Nam, 64, who was among those mentored by Mr Hulme, said: "He was my guru. I was recruited by him way back in 1983."
Many whom Mr Hulme mentored in the early MRT years paid tribute to the man on the TUCSS homepage.
Mr Rajan Krishnan, 65, chief executive of KTC construction group, wrote: "For all the engineers who joined the then Mass Rapid Transit Corp in the early and mid-1980s, Terry Hulme has been the key person who introduced them to the world of tunnelling and underground construction.
"He... never failed to continue to provide advice and engineering support over the many years since."
Mrs Tammie Loke, a recently retired LTA veteran, described Mr Hulme as "a dear friend and a true gentleman". She said: "When I joined the MRT Corporation back in 1983, as a young officer who knew nothing about rail work, I was both awed and privileged to have worked alongside this exceptional man who many came to call a friend."
Mrs Hulme, who runs a theatre company, said she was still coming to terms with her husband's death.
The couple had two children. Their daughter lives in Australia, while their son died four years ago.