HERO Heng's story had to be told

A chaotic scene greeted former journalist Tanya Fong when she arrived at the accident scene of the collapse.

"Many people from nearby buildings, including Golden Mile Complex, had been evacuated and were milling around. There was lots of fear and panic in the air," says the 38-year-old, who was then reporting for The Straits Times.

Miss Fong remembers staking out Kampong Glam Community Club, where the family of LTA inspectorTan Lock Yong were putting up.

"When his daughter Catherine finally spoke to me it was about 2am, one day after the accident. When I asked her how she was holding out, she just cried.

"It was heartbreaking as they were still hoping that he would be found. She also sent her father an SMS, telling him that he was missed and asking him to come home soon."

Mr Tan's body was eventually found beneath the undercarriage of a 5,000kg tipper truck two days after the incident.

Miss Joycelyn Wong, 35, a reporter with The New Paper at the time, was tasked to track down the workers involved.

She and her colleague uncovered the moving story of Hero Heng.

"I remember stopping every worker in the Kallang vicinity, where dormitories were located, asking if they knew the workers from the company involved in the tragedy.

"We began in the afternoon and still had not found the workers when the sky turned dark. It was easy to give up then, but we persevered because we knew Hero Heng's story was one that had to be told.

"And no one could tell it better than the very people he had saved," recounts Miss Wong, who is now a senior manager for communications and corporate responsibility in the financial industry.

Eventually she and her colleague, together with a friend who could translate Thai to English, recorded the account of one of Hero Heng's Thai workers.

"There was a look in his eyes that is difficult to describe... the look of someone who just managed to crawl out from the jaws of death," she says.

Speaking to one of Mr Heng's superiors also made an indelible impression on her, even after a decade.

"He told me that the motto for their foreman was 'first man in, last man out'. It was probably a mantra that was chanted regularly, but I wondered how many would have the courage to act like Hero Heng," she muses.