SINGAPORE – When five people died in a car crash in Tanjong Pagar on the second day of Chinese New Year last February (2021), a team of Straits Times reporters raced to the accident site.
They fanned out across the area from the wee hours of the morning, speaking to bystanders and residents to try and piece together an account of the crash, which happened at about 5am.
For their work, The Straits Times won the gold award at the World Association of News Publishers’ (Wan-Ifra) Asian Media Awards on Monday (May 23).
At about 5.40am on Feb 13, 2021, a white BMW M4 crashed into a shophouse in Tanjong Pagar and burst into flames. All five men in the car died.
Mr Jonathan Long Junwei, 29, was the driver, and the four men with him were Mr Eugene Yap Zheng Min, 29, Mr Elvin Tan Yong Hao, 28, Mr Teo Qi Xiang, 26, and Mr Gary Wong Hong Chieh, 29.
First on the scene was ST crime correspondent David Sun, who was given a tip-off about the accident and was at the accident site at about 6am.
Mr Sun, 29, said he remembers hearing people wailing, and there being a “lingering smell from the explosion”.
Other reporters from the paper joined him soon after, working under pressure to gather as much information about the crash and the victims, and keeping readers updated with rolling news coverage.
The accident quickly became the biggest story of the day, with videos of the crash being widely distributed on social media platforms.
There were many unanswered questions. For instance, who were the victims, and how did the accident happen? And in the videos online, who was the woman running into the fire, and was she trying to save someone?
Tamil Murasu deputy news editor Irshath Mohamed, who was on duty that day at the SPH Media sister publication, and ST multimedia correspondent Cheow Sue-Ann soon arrived at the accident site.
Meanwhile, ST journalist Ng Wei Kai, transport correspondent Kok Yufeng and others were working remotely to unearth the victims’ identities, which the police had not disclosed at the time.
That involved trawling through social media accounts and talking to friends and family, then cross-checking the information with the police for official verification.
That was how The Straits Times found out that the woman seen running into the fire was former air stewardess Raybe Oh Siew Huey, 26. She was Mr Long’s fiancee, and she was trying to save him from the burning wreckage, and got badly burned as a result.
Working through the public holiday, various desks in the newsroom pulled together to stitch together a detailed account of the tragedy.
Mr Kok, 31, said: “We tried to be as sensitive as we could while reporting the story and gathering as much information on the accident as possible.”
In the aftermath, the coverage of the accident helped inform a public discussion on key issues for several weeks, including a debate on safe driving and road design.
The Straits Times also took home a silver award in the Best Sport Photography category, for ST chief photojournalist Kevin Lim’s double exposure portrait of swimmer Quah Ting Wen and her diary entry dated May 23, 2016.
SPH Media Trust’s Chinese Media Group also bagged a gold and a silver award.
In the Sport Photography category, Lianhe Zaobao won gold for the entry titled “First Singaporean Female Diver at Olympics” and Lianhe Wanbao bagged silver for “The Great Migration: Getting Readers of Lianhe Wanbao to Migrate to Shinmin”, in the Newspaper Marketing category.
The annual Wan-Ifra Asian Media Awards recognises the best work by Asian media firms in the fields of newspaper and magazine design, infographics, editorial content, marketing, among others.