Teen who fell to death from Orchard Central wanted a video taken: First-hand witness

Teen who fell to death from Orchard Central wanted a video taken: First-hand witness
Wake of Jonathan Chow, 17, who fell from the fourth-storey link bridge at Orchard Central on Feb 24. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY
Published: 9:37 PM, February 27, 2017
Updated: 11:18 AM, February 28, 2017

SINGAPORE — "Help me take a Snapchat video and I’ll jump.”

Those were the last words of 17-year-old Jonathan Chow before he vaulted over a barrier at Orchard Central and fell four floors to his death last Friday (Feb 24), according to the teenager's friend, Ruth, who witnessed the incident first hand.

Leaked security camera footage that surfaced online over the weekend showed the two teenagers standing together in a linkway between Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway before Jonathan jumped.

“We were window shopping for clothes (at the mall) and when we went to the bridge, he came up with the idea of doing the stunt," said Ruth, 17, who declined to give her full name.

Speaking to TODAY at the teenager's wake at Punggol Central, Ruth said Jonathan had wanted to take a video of her doing the same stunt. Jonathan leapt before she could say no, Ruth added.

“We both thought the ledge was made of concrete, but when he jumped, he fell straight through,” said Ruth, who is currently assisting the police with investigations. “I knew it was dangerous, but before I could stop him, he already jumped over. I swear I wanted to jump over too but I knew it was too late.”

Earlier reports had suggested that Jonathan jumped over the barrier in order to retrieve his phone.

The two teenagers got to know each other through social media, and became good friends after meeting up for the first time after Chinese New Year this year. “I was just like a female version of him,” said Ruth. 

Jonathan, affectionately known to his friends as “Chow”, was a talented skateboarder who occasionally filmed his stunts, said his secondary school mate Muhammad Bazeel Ridzwan, 18.

Mr Matthew Chow, Jonathan’s father, said he was shocked when told about his son’s death on Friday. “No one would believe things like this would happen in a shopping centre," he added.

At least four passers-by rushed to help and attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Jonathan after he fell. He  was unconscious when he was sent to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital and later died there.

According to Mr Chow, Jonathan, who had been studying in Australia, returned to Singapore in December to await his call up for National Service. “He had already completed his medical check-up (but) his life was cut short,” said the teen's father, a Singapore permanent resident.

He said he bore no grudges against Ruth, who had explained to him the events leading up to Jonathan's death.

Mr Chow, however, said the incident raised some safety concerns at shopping centres here. He added: "We don’t want other families to experience what we went through. I think this is the time to raise awareness and (make) some improvements in the safety aspects of public spaces, such as shopping centres.”

Ms Mavis Seow, chief operating officer of the retail business group at Far East Organisation that owns Orchard Central, said in a statement on Saturday (Feb 25): "The glass railing along the link bridge is 1.2m high and acts as a safety barrier for members of the public. It also prohibits access to the plasterboard box-up, which is an interior architectural treatment.

"Together with our building consultants, we are currently reviewing if any other measures, in addition to the glass barrier, are required. In the interim, our security officers will be patrolling the various link bridges at more frequent intervals."

Jonathan will be cremated on Thursday. His friends and family say they will miss his cheery personality and sense of humour.

“Chow just knows how to make people love him,” said his friend, Jamerson Chua, 18.