Tragedy on wheels as NSF crashes at cycle event
IT WAS his first time taking part in the biggest mass-participation cycling event on closed public roads here, but Mr Chia Wee Kiak's debut in the OCBC Cycle Singapore ended in tragedy when he was left with severe head injuries following a crash.
The 24-year-old is in critical condition at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and doctors there have "painted the worst possible scenario", his cousin, Ms Angel Soo, told MyPaper.
Ms Soo, 30, a human resources adviser, said he has undergone two operations, each lasting between five and six hours, on his brain.
"Apparently when he was discovered, he was semi-conscious and was in pain," she said. "The doctors said he has a fractured skull and blood clots on both sides of the brain."
It is still unclear how the full-time national serviceman crashed on a steep downhill slope along Sheares Bridge on Sunday. An eyewitness told Shin Min Daily News that Mr Chia flew high off his bicycle before hitting the ground.
Ms Soo said Mr Chia has been cycling for over three years.
He was riding a Polygon Helios 300 in the 59km category, which flagged off at 5.15am from the F1 Pit Building. There were two other categories that day - the 40km and 27km rides. The event attracted close to 12,000 people over three days.
Event organiser Spectrum Worldwide said 19 medical evacuations took place that day, with two other riders also hospitalised.
Mr Woon Tai Woon, 39, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG, said: "When it is such a big-scale event, the risk goes up because of the volume of riders. There may be bottlenecks. The mix of experience levels of riders can also pose a potential risk for accidents."
He added: "The organisers have to make sure the circuit has the capacity for the riders. Imagine 100 to 200 people making a turn - that is an accident waiting to happen."
First-time participant Raymond Ng, 40, founder of consulting firm Get Funding, was concerned about visibility, saying: "There were cyclists tripping over the cones (which were used as lane dividers)... it is quite dark at five plus in the morning."
Hairstylist Kenneth Tham, 39, was himself involved in a crash. Fortunately, he escaped injury, but he remarked: "The marshals seemed inexperienced. For example, when someone fell, they did not instinctively go forward and direct the traffic. We had to tell them what to do."
Spectrum Worldwide is contacting witnesses and the Land Transport Authority to obtain information about the accident.
It said it was notified of the accident at 5.39am. A fast-response motorbike paramedic attended to Mr Chia at 5.45am. He was then sent to SGH via ambulance, which arrived at about 5.52am and reached SGH at 6.14am.
It said that among the medical and safety "assets" that day were six event doctors, 12 nurses, 16 medics, 10 ambulances, nine fast-response paramedics, three medical evacuation cars and 84 marshals/spotters.
Spectrum Worldwide managing director Chris Robb said: "The safety of our participants is our top priority." He added that safety measures were in place - such as a cap on the number of participants, who were also told that "the event is a ride, as opposed to a competitive race".
It also does a "thorough review of all elements" after each year's event to improve it.
Ms Koh Ching Ching, head of Group Corporate Communications, OCBC Bank, said: "Together with Spectrum, we are extending help to Mr Chia's family where it is needed. We wish Mr Chia a quick and complete recovery."