Monday 27 April 2015

Foreign worker's heroic act saves toddler stuck between railings of HDB block

Rescuers' only thought was to save toddler
The two workers receive Public Spiritedness Award for selfless deed
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2015

WHEN construction workers Subramanian Shanmuganathan and Ponnan Muthukumar saw a toddler dangling out of a second- floor flat on Thursday, their first thought was to save her.

The two-year-old girl was hanging outside the ledge of her flat's service yard, with her head stuck between a laundry pole and the ledge.

The workers climbed up. Mr Shanmuganathan, 35, stood on the parapet and held onto the girl's body, while Mr Muthukumar, 24, who was in the area next to the service yard, held her head.

They eventually freed two- year-old Naurah Fitria Auni, who had been left alone in the three-room flat in Jurong East Street 32 for about 20 minutes.

The rescue was captured on video by private tutor David Cheo, 36. The video was uploaded on popular blog and was viewed more than 500,000 times as of last night.

Yesterday, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) presented the duo from Tamil Nadu with the Public Spiritedness Award at the SCDF headquarters in Bukit Batok. Mr Ang Wei Neng, an MP for Jurong GRC, also presented each of them with $100 worth of supermarket vouchers.

You must have already seen the video of that heroic man climbing up to the second floor of an HBD block to rescue a baby...
Posted by Singapore Civil Defence Force on Friday, April 24, 2015

Mr Muthukumar said in Tamil: "I didn't think of my own safety. I just wanted to save the baby. I could tell she was in pain."

Mr Shanmuganathan added: "We didn't expect to receive an award. We really appreciate it."

The workers of Yew Hup Construction were repairing roads in Jurong East on Thursday when the incident happened.

Both said they did not find it hard to climb up to the flat, as they used to climb trees in India.

The toddler's mother, Madam Noreen Saniri, 27, said she had left the flat at about 12.45pm on Thursday to walk her four-year- old daughter, Naurah Amni, to pre-school. As her younger daughter was asleep, she decided not to wake her when she left.

"But when I was coming home and crossing the road, I saw my neighbour waving to me," she said. "My heart dropped. I didn't know what had happened."

The housewife said she was still unsure about what happened, but SCDF officers had retrieved her iPad from the parapet outside the service yard.

"I think she might have dropped the iPad and she wanted to go down to take it," she said.

There were boxes stacked up in the service yard, which the toddler might have climbed onto.

She said she heard about the rescue video, but did not dare to watch it. "I cannot take it. I know in the video she was calling out for me, she kept saying ibu, ibu."

She said she had thought of installing window grilles in her home, but found this too expensive. Her husband, Mr Muhammad Fazlee Abdul Aziz, 28, works as a technician and takes home about $2,000 each month. They have a nine-year-old son.

But Mr Ang said yesterday the Jurong Central Citizens Consultative Committee is looking to sponsor window grilles for her family.

Meanwhile, the police said they are investigating the incident as a case of negligence.

Madam Noreen's daughters were playing in the living room when The Straits Times visited yesterday. The younger girl had a bruise on her left cheek and chin.

"We took her to the hospital yesterday and the doctor said it's just a minor bruise," she said.

She said she would thank the workers when she see them.

"I just want to thank the workers. They saved my daughter."

WATCH: The interview with the mother of the two-year old child who was saved by two men as she dangled precariously from the second-floor flat.
Posted by The Straits Times on Friday, April 24, 2015

Family of stuck toddler thankful for foreign workers' rescue efforts
By Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia, 24 Apr 2015

The family of the three-year-old toddler who had fallen over the service balcony of their flat in Jurong has expressed their gratitude to the two foreign workers who rescued their child.

The child was found dangling in between the rails of of an external clothes drying rack on Thursday (Apr 23), before being saved by Mr Subramanian Shanmuganathan, 35, and Mr Ponnan Muthukumar, 24.

"I’m shocked and sad, but glad that there were workers resting below that could help my daughter," Muhammad Fazlee Abdul Aziz told Channel NewsAsia on Friday.

Channel NewsAsia made a visit to the family's flat and facilitated a phone call for the father of the toddler, to express his thanks to the foreign workers who have been commended by the Singapore Civil Defence Force for their act.

Mr Fazlee said he is unable to offer them a gift or token of appreciation but he wished them well and thanked them for their spontaneous and selfless act. "I'd also like to thank the passers by who quickly informed SCDF of the situation. If we get to meet them, I will thank them," he said. "We are not rich people, I can’t give them anything." 

The 28-year-old father of three said he was at work at the time of the incident which took place sometime around 1pm.

He said his three-year-old daughter - whom he affectionately calls "Auni" - had taken a day off from school and was soundly asleep in the couple's bedroom when his wife, 27-year-old homemaker Noreen Saniri, took a 5 to 10-minute walk to send their second child to school.

Madam Noreen said it was the very first time she had left Auni alone at home as her usual routine was to also pick Auni up from school at the same time. She added that she did not expect Auni to wake up.

The couple said it was possible that Auni was looking for her mother, and had made her way to the kitchen and unlocked the door to the service balcony. Auni was also believed to be holding on to an iPad and it is believed that the iPad had fallen and Auni was trying to retrieve it when she toppled over.

She was found dangling two storeys above ground, with her head wedged in between the railing and the ledge.

Mr Fazlee said the lock to the door is located at a height that makes it possible for Auni to unlock it. As a precaution following the incident, Mr Fazlee said that he has installed a latch that is out of Auni's reach.

Asked about criticism from others of her decision to leave Auni alone, Madam Noreen said: "If they were in my situation, I think they'd do the same - where neighbours are not around, and you have no one to turn to. They do not know my family situation, so they can assume anything."

Auni's parents said the girl suffered minor injuries to her cheek and jaw, and is coping well with the incident.

Madam Noreen said she has learnt from the incident and will not leave Auni alone at home again.


MP for Jurong GRC Ang Wei Neng visited the family on Friday and extended help to them via Project Helping Hand. The scheme helps needy families in the area pay for electrical appliances, and some families with young children have used this fund to pay for window grilles as well. 

Mr Fazlee had earlier been told the installation of safety railings will cost him more than S$1,500. 

He is the family's sole breadwinner and earns S$2,000 a month as a technician. His wife stays home to look after their three children, who are between the ages of three and nine. His wife's 18-year-old brother lives with them as well.

When Channel NewsAsia visited the family's flat on Friday, an officer from the town council was at the home to have a look at the premises. A contractor also came by, according to Mr Fazlee. 

Mr Ang said he has brought up the issue of installing safety grilles in flats with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) previously.

"I have brought this up to HDB before, especially for rental flats. But having said that, not all families have young children. They will at times find that railings may not be necessary or may not look nice, so they may not want the window grilles. It depends on the families," he said.

"And the HDB and I discussed, in particular for this precinct, that for whoever needs it, we will assess the situation. They will find a contractor to install it, then we will use this (Project Helping Hand) fund to pay for it." 

Mr Ang added that he had met the family before on his walkabouts but was unaware of their financial difficulties. Mr Fazlee said that he did not ask for assistance because he believes in living within his means.

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