Duo receive SCDF awards for rescuing 3 boys from waters off East Coast Park

Gabriel Choo
Award recipients Silvia Hajas and Tan Kian Choon with their families at the 2nd SCDF Division Headquarters in Tampines. (PHOTO: Yahoo Singapore / Gabriel Choo)

Two people received the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) first-ever Community Life Saver Awards (CLSAs) on Tuesday (16 May).

Silvia Hajas, 47, and Tan Kian Choon, 53, earned the commendations for saving three students from drowning in the waters off East Coast Park on 8 May. The awards were handed out at a ceremony held at the 2nd SCDF Division Headquarters in Tampines.

On the day of the incident, Hajas was at the beach along East Coast Park with her young daughter when she saw a group of boys who seemed to be “monkeying around” about 50m from the shore. She soon realised that they were actually in distress and leapt into the water to help pull them to shore.

She managed to rescue two of them on her own and Tan, who was also at the beach with his wife at the time, came to her assistance and helped to rescue the third boy.

Unfortunately, a fourth boy – 12-year-old Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian – had already disappeared under the waves before the duo could save him. His body was later recovered by officers from the SCDF’s Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team.

During the rescue, both Hajas and Tan said they had been concerned about their own safety as they were nearly 50m away from land. The housewife further shared that what she did and what she felt, “ran parallel with her actions”, which was to save the boys despite of the danger involved.

Hajas added that she hopes the boys will not be scarred by the incident but be hopeful for something amazing to happen with their lives as a result of the experience.

Both said they were extremely honoured to receive the awards and stressed the importance of knowing water safety as well as the need for people to look after each other in a community.

“I often hear that Singaporeans lack civic-mindedness but I don’t think so. I think that there is a hero in all of us,” Hajas added.

‘Every minute counts’

Echoing a similar tune, the SCDF’s public affairs director, Colonel Abdul Razak, said every member of the public has a part to play when it comes to their personal safety or the safety of others.

“In a life-threatening situation, every minute counts”, he said, adding that he hoped the CLSA awards will spur more people on to help others.

The inaugural CLSA awards that Silvia and Tan received are part of a rebranding of the SCDF’s Public Spiritedness Award, which accord a higher level of recognition for civic-minded acts and life-saving efforts by members of the public.

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