Crane hit bridge, pierced car with boom
HE WAS driving behind a lorry crane when he noticed that its boom (the lifting arm of a crane) was extended.
Then he heard a loud bang.
The boom had smashed into an overhead bridge, dislodging two large pieces. But Mr Tonny Neo, 37, did not see them.
Before he could react, one piece plunged towards his car and pierced the windscreen on the front passenger side.
The 3m-long metal rod brushed against the left side of his body and - to his horror - continued towards his wife and baby in the rear.
Miraculously, the rod went between mother and son and stopped a mere 2cm from the six-month-old baby in a car seat.
The baby's left knee was bruised while Mr Neo suffered fractures to his ribs and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The family's close shave happened around 10.30am on Oct 29, 2011, after the exit at Paya Lebar Road on the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) in the direction of Tuas.
Mr Neo, who is self-employed, was driving back to his office at Bukit Batok.
While driving along the PIE, he saw the lorry crane with the extended boom in front of his silver Toyota Allion.
"Suddenly, I heard a loud bang. My instinct told me something might fall. I tried to avoid it but it happened too fast," Mr Neo said.
A part of the boom that had been dislodged landed beside his car, while the other piece came hurtling towards him and smashed into the windscreen.
"I thought I was going to die. I never expected it to hit me. I thought I could avoid it, but it came right into my car."
When the metal rod stopped, his unhurt wife became hysterical.
He said: "It was terrifying. For a few seconds, I was shocked.
"I got down from the car, panicking, as my wife was screaming. I opened the back door and was relieved to see that both were okay."
Suddenly, Mr Neo felt pain in his side. He said: "I wasn't aware that I was hurt. I had difficulty breathing.
"Passers-by helped me call an ambulance. I was conscious throughout. It was very painful."
The ambulance arrived 15 minutes later, he said. All three of them were taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
On Wednesday, the lorry-crane driver, Li Qiang, 40, was jailed for a week and banned from driving for nine months.
He was accused of causing the crane boom to hit the overhead bridge, which was 4.5m from the ground, by failing to retract the boom.
Investigations showed that he had not bothered to check whether the crane arm had been lowered before he drove away from the worksite, because there was always a safety officer to check if the crane arm was down.
It cost $28 to repair the bridge and it was restored within a day. But Mr Neo spent about $40,000 to repair his car.
The pain from his rib fractures still keeps him awake at night.
Despite this, Mr Neo is thankful that his wife is alive when it could easily have been a tragedy if she had been in the front passenger seat.
"Because I took my boy out with us, my wife did not sit in front," he said.