Singapore

A look back at June 2015: Sabah quake hits close to home

As 2015 comes to a close, The New Paper looks back at the top stories from our pages this year, and offers a glimpse behind the scenes

An overseas learning expedition to Mount Kinabalu ended in tragedy when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sabah on June 5.

A group of climbers from Singapore comprising 29 pupils from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), teachers and guides were on the mountain when the quake hit.

The TKPS pupils, who had been part of leadership programme Omega Challenge, were caught in a hail of boulders as they attempted a challenging route on the mountain.

FATALITIES

Seven pupils, two teachers and a Singapore adventure guide accompanying them were killed in the earthquake.

Four Sabah guides also died.

The other 22 pupils, six teachers and two Singapore guides on the expedition survived.

Amid debates over the safety of such adventure learning programmes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech that these programmes will still go on with necessary safety precautions, as they help to "bring up a generation who will grow up tough and able to work closely together".

In November, TKPS principal Caroline Wu said in a statement that while the Omega Challenge will continue, it will no longer be in the format of climbing Mount Kinabalu, as it had been in the past seven years. She did not say what the students would do next year.

The 22 surviving pupils were also given the TKP Braveheart Awardin recognition of their courage, resilience and teamwork in the face of adversity. The seven pupils who died received the award posthumously.

Jailed: Driver who killed 4 in CTE crash

On June 19, Toh Cheng Yang finally paid his dues when he was slapped with a five-year jail sentence and banned from driving for 20 years.

Two years ago, the 36-year-old had caused a horrific accident on the Central Expressway (CTE), which left four people dead.

The court heard this year that Toh had been speeding dangerously on the CTE while high on tranquilisers.

His multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) slammed into Mr Amron Ayoub, 23, his South Korean girlfriend, Miss Jamie Song Jisoo, 24, and her parents, Madam Kim Mee-Kyung, 53, and Mr Song Jungwoo, 55, as they stood behind their stationary MPV, which had a flat tyre.

SOLE SURVIVOR

The sole survivor, Miss Song's brother Seounghwan, 32, was standing at the side of the car.

Mr Amron was pronounced dead on arrival at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital .

When asked about Toh's sentence, Mr Amron's father Ayoub Ahmat, 53, said he trusted the court to make a fair judgment.

He added that the family had long decided to forgive Toh.

"Nothing forced us to forgive. We knew it was an accident... If we don't forgive, the accident will keep hounding us in our memories. But when we forgive from the heart, we accept that it was totally an accident," he said.

A record-smashing SEA games

This year was the first time in 22 years that Singapore played host to the SEA Games.

What made the 28th SEA Games all the more memorable was the country's record haul of 259 medals, including 84 gold.

Highlights of the 11-day event which started on June 5 included Singapore sprint queen Veronica Shanti Pereira'svictory in the 200m race - the first Singaporean to do so since 1973 - and swim star Joseph Schooling, who raked in nine gold medals.

The New Paper's sports journalist David Lee and digital journalist Gregory Loo added a light-hearted spin to the Games by creating a hilarious award-winning video of skits depicting the 36 sports contested.

Mr Lee said he and the rest of the sports team simply wanted to put a smile on people's faces.

"Thanks to like-minded colleagues - from editors to foot soldiers - who were sporting enough to play a part, we were able to put our own spin on the 36 sports in just two weeks.

TEAM EFFORT

"It really didn't matter if the end product was a gold, silver or bronze standard, it was a true team effort and if it made the day of just one person, then it was mission accomplished," he said.

Man shoots cop at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

A man grabbed a .38-calibre Taurus revolver from a policeman and fired it three times in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).

The police officer, Staff Sergeant Mohammad Sadli Razali, 31, suffered gunshot wounds in his left thumb and right foot in the June 20 incident.

At that time, Muhammad Iskandar Sa'at, 23, was in police custody for an unrelated charge of motor vehicle theft.

While in custody, he reportedly complained of chest pains and was escorted to KTPH to seek medical help.

While he was in a private room in the hospital, he allegedly tried to escape and a struggle ensued.

Muhammad Iskandar also allegedly hit the officer multiple times with a T-baton and a metal pole used for securing an intravenous drip.

An unnamed source told The New Paper that two paramedics from Hope Ambulance, who were walking past the room, rushed in to help subdue the suspect.

"They jumped on him before he could fire again," he said.

UNDER CONTROL

A police spokesman told TNP then that the suspect "was swiftly brought under control" and "members of the public were not in any danger at any time".

Muhammad Iskandar has been charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm and faces the death penalty if convicted.

He has also been charged with hitting Staff Sgt Sadli multiple times and trying to escape from police custody.

TNP journalist Ng Jun Sen, who won an award for his report on the incident, said: "The night of the shooting, I watched plain-clothes police officers arrive to visit their injured comrade at TTSH and spoke to distraught family members."

While the policeman's family declined to speak to the media, their grim expressions said it all, Mr Ng said.

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