Monday, October 15, 2007


October 15, 2007

THERE was still 40 minutes before lunch time was up, but as usual, Mr Chew Chee Nee rushed back alone to start work earlier.

The meal the 53-year-old excavator driver had turned out to be his last.

He was crushed to death by 17 storeys of falling concrete debris inside the Asia Chambers building along McCallum Street on Friday.

One of Mr Chew's younger brothers, Zhida, told Lianhe Wanbao that colleagues described his brother as responsible and hardworking.

Zhida, a 33-year-old car salesman, said: 'Although my brother had one hour for lunch, he would often finish it quickly and return to work alone without waiting for his colleagues.

'On that day, he was also the first one back after lunch. Perhaps it's all fated. There was no one else at the site except for him, and the accident happened.'

A roll call after the accident confirmed that Mr Chew was the only casualty.

His nine siblings were in tears as they gathered at Mr Chew's house, which he shares with two other brothers.

It was in stark contrast to the joyous mood just a day earlier, as MrChew's 41-year-old younger brother registered his marriage.

However, Mr Chew, who's not married and third among his siblings, was unable to attend due to demolition work at the 19-storey Asia Chambers building.

The workaholic was said to have clocked at least 11hours at the site every day.

His brother-in-law, Mr Peh Eng Hup, a 56-year-old businessman, said that Mr Chew had operated excavators for demolition work for over 30 years, and had rarely met with mishaps. As one of the older siblings, he was the solemn type who seldom smiled. But he showed concern for his siblings.

When colleagues turned up at his home to deliver the bad news, Zhida didn't think that his brother had died.

He said: 'I thought he had probably fallen, or at the worst, broken a bone. The last thing on my mind would have been that image of him buried under debris.'

His body was recovered at 10.10pm on Friday night, after a 10-hour rescue operation that needed five lorries to remove 30 tonnes of debris.

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