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The Straits Times
Jan 27, 2024
Four-year-old Zara Mei Orlic celebrated her birthday on New Year’s Day and went on her first skiing trip in December, but on Jan 23 her life was cut short in a fatal accident near her home.
Zara was walking to her River Valley home after pre-school with her two-year-old sister and their maid Lily when a car came from around the street corner and knocked her down.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Jan 27, Zara’s father Nick Orlic said the maid was holding the younger girl’s hand and carrying their school bags, and had given Zara the green light to cross the road after checking that it was safe.
Zara’s six-year-old sister was not with them at the time.
Dr Orlic, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Business School, said: “Zara was a careful girl. She was taught to check the roads before crossing.”
The street was usually not busy with traffic either, he added, although illegal parking and speeding cars were a problem.
The maid, an Indonesian in her 30s, said she could not reach Zara in time to prevent her from being hit by the car. All she could do was scream for the driver to stop, but the car stopped only after some time.
Dr Orlic, 39, said he was at home, just minutes away from the accident spot, when he got a phone call from the maid, and he raced down to where Zara was.
“When I saw her, my heart sank. Her skull was shattered. She was bleeding profusely from her nose, mouth and head. And her eyes were closed,” he said.
Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedics arrived soon after and found that Zara had a faint pulse, he added.
The child was rushed to hospital, where a surgeon told Dr Orlic that Zara’s chances of survival were not good. However, Dr Orlic said, the doctors continued to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Zara for about half an hour.
“I asked them to continue keeping her alive till Michelle arrived because I wanted us to make a decision together.”
Dr Orlic’s wife Michelle, a 38-year-old British lawyer, reached the hospital as soon as she could after speaking to the police at the accident location.
Seeing Zara for the first time after the accident, she broke down in tears, said Dr Orlic. “She did not realise how bad the injuries were before she had seen Zara. But she was very brave. Together, we told the surgeon to stop the CPR and said: ‘You can let her go now.’”
In response to queries, the police said there was an accident involving a car and a pedestrian in Institution Hill towards River Valley Road on Jan 23 at about 4.55pm.
They said a four-year-old girl was taken unconscious to hospital, where she later died of her injuries.
The police added that a 40-year-old woman was arrested under suspicion of careless driving causing death.
Dr Orlic – who has lived in Singapore since 2012 and, like his wife, is a permanent resident – said Zara was a joyful child who loved dancing. She also adored her sisters.
He added that she loved her first skiing trip in 2023 and spent a memorable Christmas in Croatia, where Dr Orlic is from.
Zara was too young to ski but wanted her father to be with her the whole time. So, Dr Orlic took her for three hours of skiing lessons and stayed by her side for all the skiing activities.
He is happy that he was able to have that time with her, he said.
He added: “Lily noticed that Zara was singing to herself cheerfully just moments before the accident. It gives us some comfort to know that she was happy when she died.”
Lily will be getting professional psychological help to cope with the trauma of witnessing the accident, he said.
The family, Dr Orlic added, will hold a private funeral for Zara on Jan 28 and 29.