Man mourns brother's death after KJE accident: 'I just broke down and my mind went blank'

Gracia Yap
The New Paper
January 5, 2021

A New Year's Day fishing trip for two brothers ended in tragedy when their car flipped in the rain on the Kranji Expressway (KJE) towards Woodlands in the early hours of last Saturday.

The elder brother, Mr Zaini Za'ahari, 28, who was driving, died in the crash, leaving his brother to grieve his loss.

The brother, 26, who declined to be named, told The New Paper yesterday: "It was a nightmare. I lost someone so close to me. He was the closest to me in my family."

The freelance delivery driver said Mr Zaini was like a father-figure to the family before their mother remarried.

"He held three jobs - full-time pest control technician, part-time Grab driver and another part-time driving job - to support the family and save up for his wedding in June.

"He was cheerful, softhearted and kind and liked to crack jokes."

The brothers had gone fishing at Sembawang Park on Friday around 11am after picking up their stepfather and stepbrother.

The fishing did not go as planned because of the rain, so they went home to freshen up around midnight before heading back to Sembawang Park for more fishing until nearly 4am.

After they took their stepfather and stepbrother home in Teck Whye, Mr Zaini drove towards Woodlands to drop his brother off at his fiancee's place. While they were on the KJE in heavy rain and poor visibility, the Toyota sedan suddenly turned turtle, trapping Mr Zaini in the car.

His brother said: "I was about to call my fiancee to tell her that I was reaching home soon when the car flipped. Everything happened so fast."

While upside down in the front seat next to Mr Zaini, he switched off the car engine and then tried to keep his brother from losing consciousness.

"I kept telling him not to fall asleep. He could blink one of his eyes but he couldn't talk," said the brother, who then crawled out of the car through a broken window to seek help.

He stood on the road in the rain trying to hail passing vehicles. After a van stopped, its driver felt it was too dangerous to extricate Mr Zaini and suggested that the brother call for help.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted at about 4.40am and found a car inverted on a slope with the driver trapped inside.

SCDF firefighters and Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) specialists stabilised the car to prevent it from sliding down before using hydraulic rescue equipment to gain access to the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene by a paramedic.

His brother, who had a fractured rib cage and needed stitches on his left knee, was taken in an ambulance to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where he was warded overnight.

He said he learnt of Mr Zaini's death after surgery.

"I just broke down and my mind went blank. We held the funeral on Sunday and our family still cannot believe he is gone," the brother added.

"He had saved up enough for his wedding in June, and as his brother, I was very happy and excited for him.

"We will always remember him until the end of our lives."

The New Paper

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