Duo who rescued woman from car that burst into flames each receive Community Lifesaver Award

SINGAPORE – He was driving in an underpass along the Seletar Expressway (SLE) when a car beside his vehicle in the right lane skidded and crashed into the wall, bouncing off and narrowly missing his car before it came to a stop in the left lane.

Mr Johnson Chia Yong Lee stopped his vehicle to help the driver as the stalled car started to emit smoke. The 33-year-old female driver was unconscious when he got to the car door but she came to quickly, and Mr Chia grabbed her arm and helped her out of the vehicle.

He eventually flagged down Mr Azlee Abdul Shukor’s van and the latter offered to take the woman to safety. As soon as Mr Chia and Mr Azlee, together with the woman, drove off, the smouldering car burst into flames.

On Monday (Nov 15), Mr Chia and Mr Azlee received the Singapore Civil Defence Force Community Lifesaver Award for their respective displays of courage that Nov 2 afternoon.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the headquarters of the 3rd SCDF Division in Yishun, Mr Chia, 28, who works in events production, said: “I was just worried something worse was going to happen to her.”

Recalling the incident, which occurred at around 4.45pm, he said the car window had shattered, which allowed him to reach in and unlock the door. The woman, who was not named, suffered contusions and bruises after the airbag activated, and he guided her slowly to his car.

Mr Chia then tried to flag down a vehicle but struggled to get any attention.

“It was peak hour and there were many cars. I tried to flag down eight to nine cars, but none of them stopped.”

Eventually, Mr Azlee, 48, who works for a logistics company, stopped his van at the scene.

By that time, flames could be seen coming out of the engine of the woman’s vehicle and fearing the worse, he offered to drive her out of the tunnel.

As soon as they drove off, Mr Azlee said he heard a loud “boom” as the car burst into flames, and soon, black smoke engulfed the tunnel.

He said: “I was shocked because I had never seen anything like that before. I didn’t even think the smoke from the fire could become so thick.”

While he was driving out of the tunnel, he noticed the woman was shaking and seemed to be in shock. He offered to drive her to the hospital, but she declined.

Both Mr Chia and Mr Azlee stopped their vehicles as soon as they got out of the tunnel and Mr Chia called the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

The SCDF arrived at the scene within five to six minutes and the woman was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on an SCDF ambulance.

Firefighters extinguished the fire with one compressed air foam jet.

Referring to the award, Mr Azlee said: “We are not brave people, just people who care and want to help those in need.”

Mr Chia said he never expected to receive such a recognition.

“I just believe that if you do something good, it will come in return.”

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