‘I heard a loud crack, then the tree came hurtling towards me’

‘I heard a loud crack, then the tree came hurtling towards me’
Workers are seen cutting the fallen Tembusu tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Feb 12, 2017. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY
Survivor in Botanic Gardens tree incident pulled friend to safety, dislocated shoulder
Published: 6:34 PM, February 13, 2017
Updated: 7:20 AM, February 14, 2017

SINGAPORE — One moment she was chatting with her two friends while picnicking at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Saturday (Feb 11), and the next, she looked up to see a large tree falling towards her.

Civil servant Tay Pei Lei, 26, who was one of four persons injured when a giant 40m-tall Tembusu tree fell in the gardens, told TODAY that she heard an “unusually loud” crackling sound from above her before the accident happened. 

She and her friends, Ms Aly Pan and Ms Jacqueline Ng, both 26, managed to escape being hit by the falling tree. 

However, in what felt like a mere 10-second span, Ms Tay had to drag Ms Pan along with her, and lost her balance and fell backwards, dislocating her shoulder. 

“There was no time to speak. Both my friend (Ms Ng) and I got up, but my other friend was still seated, so I had to pull her to safety,” Ms Tay said.

Ms Ng, an IT specialist, said that after Ms Pan was pulled to safety, “branches and leaves covered our vision”. 

Both suffered minor injuries: Ms Ng had insect bites, and Ms Pan suffered a cut on her calf.  

The fallen tree claimed one life: Indian national Radhika Angara, 38, who was the regional digital marketing head (Asia-Pacific) at Mastercard and a mother of two. 

Her husband, French national Jerome Rouch-Sirech, 39, and their twins were the other three injured along with Ms Tay, and have since been discharged from the National University Hospital (NUH).

Ms Tay is now on seven days’ medical leave, after being warded and discharged from NUH on the same day. 

She added that while her right shoulder has been “fixed back”, she would be seeing an orthopaedic this week. 

Ms Pan, who declined to reveal her profession, said that she was “traumatised” by the incident: “If my friend didn’t pull me, I would most probably have been crushed by the surrounding palm tree that was brought down by the Tembusu tree.”

Ms Ng recalled that she saw Ms Angara being pinned by the tree, and many people came forward to try to lift it up.

The top of the fallen tree landed on their picnic mat, Ms Tay said, adding that there were some 10 people — including families with young children — within the vicinity of the accident. 

“Life is so fragile, anything can happen,” Ms Tay added.

Agreeing, Ms Ng said: “I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance to see life in a different perspective.” 

On Monday, at the wake for Ms Angara, a steady stream of visitors entered Singapore Casket from 5pm, some seen leaving with tears in their eyes. 

Members of her family, as well as friends and colleagues, declined to speak to the media. Her funeral will  take place Tuesday.