Saturday, 4 June 2016

12-year-old boy honoured by SCDF for helping car accident victims as passers-by snap photos

12-year-old given Public Spiritedness Award; spotlight on issue of bystanders taking photos instead of offering help
By Rachel Oh, The Straits Times, 3 Jun 2016

The issue of bystanders taking photographs instead of offering help during times of need has come to the fore following a 12-year-old boy's act of selflessness.

The boy, Ashvin Gunasegaran, had rushed to help victims of a car accident in Yishun on Tuesday because, he said, other passers-by were "too busy taking pictures with their phones instead of helping".

The behaviour of the bystanders might reflect a desire to update friends on social media about accidents, said experts in the field.

Dr Brian Lee, head of the communication programme at SIM University's School of Arts and Social Sciences, said updating one's social networking profile could be an instinctive reaction to accidents such as Tuesday's.

"Some gadget users are obsessed with taking selfies and snapping pictures, so that they can feed their social media profiles with 'exciting' pictures or videos that can 'wow' their circle of online friends and (others in the) community...

"It has become their instinct to record almost anything, not to mention the unusual ones, for their social media feeds," said Dr Lee.

Ashvin, a Yishun Primary School pupil, was on his way home from school with his classmates on Tuesday when he witnessed the traffic accident involving two cars in Yishun. Despite warnings from his friends that it might be dangerous, Ashvin went to help one of the drivers - a pregnant woman who he said was crying and in pain when he reached her.

He also checked if the other driver - a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer - was fine, and waited for an ambulance called by a passer-by to arrive before leaving the scene.

Yesterday, Ashvin was given a Public Spiritedness Award by the SCDF for his deeds.

Speaking to the media yesterday, he said: "(The victims) weren't screaming for help, and I was scared that the accident might have been fatal."

His mother, housewife Swares Helen Louisa, 50, said she has been teaching Ashvin kindness since he was young.

While many netizens have commended the boy, others also criticised the photo-snapping bystanders for not helping.

But some defended the passers- by. Facebook user Robson Chris emphasised the importance of coming forward to help, but said that the bystanders "were the ones who had taken the pictures of Ashvin", and that "we still need someone to take photos or videos to keep" as evidence.

Ms Pat Law, managing director of social influence marketing agency Goodstuph, said that if the accusations against the bystanders were true, "it's a bit sad".

"The first immediate reaction should be to call the police or the ambulance," she said. "But if the first reaction was to take out their phones, we have to... think if this is an acceptable reaction."

Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said Ashvin's actions "remind everyone how personal responsibility moves us along on our journey towards a kinder Singapore".

He added: "All of us can make the conscious decision to choose to help those in need."

Boy, 12, helps accident victims as passers-by snap photos
By Sanjay Nair, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2016

A 12-year-old boy, who rushed to the aid of the victims of a car accident in Yishun on Tuesday, said he did so as other passers-by were "too busy taking pictures with their phones instead of helping".

Yishun Primary School pupil Ashvin Gunasegaran was walking home from school with several classmates when they heard a "loud boom" behind them as they crossed the road.

Turning around, they saw two cars had collided just metres away at the junction of Yishun Ring Road and Yishun Avenue 2.

While his friends told him to stay away as it was "too dangerous", Ashvin said he ran over to the drivers of each car after seeing that no adults were coming forward to offer assistance.

"It was my first instinct - I felt I had to check if they were okay and if they needed an ambulance," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

"One of the drivers was pregnant, she said she was not injured but asked for my help in finding her glasses. I tried to open her door but it was jammed."

Ashvin said he also checked if the other driver was fine and waited for an ambulance - called by another member of the public - to arrive before leaving the scene.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the accident at about 1.10pm on Tuesday and dispatched one ambulance. A pregnant woman was conveyed to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, an SCDF spokesman said. Her condition is believed to be stable.

A Facebook post by Ashvin's sister Laava, featuring a photo taken by Ashvin's schoolmate as he spoke to one of the victims in the damaged car, has been shared more than 1,700 times since Tuesday evening.

Ashvin said his classmates were cheering his name at school yesterday as the picture was shared among his peers.

"What I did wasn't special - it was just the right thing to do."

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