Tributes for 'gentle rugby star' who died in freak crash

Mr Slemat was hit by a tyre that came off the wheel axle of a trailer truck on the opposite side of the Kranji Expressway.
Mr Slemat was hit by a tyre that came off the wheel axle of a trailer truck on the opposite side of the Kranji Expressway.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

Tributes have poured in for a "gentle rugby star" on social media, as news of his death spread among the rugby fraternity.

Rugby veteran Slemat Rakisan died in a freak traffic accident on Thursdayafter his motorcycle was hit by a tyre that came off the wheel axle of a trailer truck on the opposite side of the Kranji Expressway.

A dashcam video circulating on social media shows the tyre bouncing across the road divider and striking the former vice-president of the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) and his motorcycle. It then narrowly misses another motorcyclist as it tumbles across the road.

Mr Slemat was thrown off his motorcycle on impact.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force was alerted to the accident at about 3.50pm. Mr Slemat, 57, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police investigations are ongoing.

Yesterday afternoon, at least 60 people, including Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and members of the rugby community, turned up at his HDB block in Yung Ping Road, in Jurong, to pay their respects.

Former SRU president Chan Peng Mun wrote on Facebook: "A tragic and premature passing of a gentle rugby star. In the mid-90s, when rugby awoke from its slumber, he had put his shoulder to the wheel for rugby to gain momentum."

Mr Slemat first picked up rugby when he was 11, then played for St Andrew's Secondary as well as the national team in the 1980s.

He was also a former rugby coach with the Police Sports Association and the national under-16 team, a former president of the Singapore Society of Rugby Union Referees, and SRU's vice-president from 2005 to 2009.

He also coached several secondary school rugby teams.

SRU president Low Teo Ping said: "He was a 'wholesome' contributor to the sport. At age 57, he had more years to give back to the sport, and he would have if he could."

Teacher Michael Lim, 58, Mr Slemat's friend since they were in secondary school, said: "He was fond of sports. Even after he became a national rugby player, he came back to St Andrew's and shared rugby tips with the boys."

Contractor Ibrahim Ramlee, 33, whom Mr Slemat coached for about 10 years, said: "He was a father figure to us, more like a father than a coach. After training, we would go for supper in Adam Road."

Mr Slemat leaves behind his wife and three children, aged 19 to 28.

His wife Noraini Maskuri, 55, who works in a media agency, said: "When he did something good, I would know about it only when somebody told me. He did favours for people without question or grumbling. I will miss his kindness the most."

WATCH THE  VIDEO
Rugby veteran killed in KJE accident.
http://str.sg/47pR

• Additional reporting by Annika Mock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Tributes for 'gentle rugby star' who died in freak crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe