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    Feb 19, 2014

    Yet another close shave for hawker

    A SHARP pain shot through his right thumb as he inserted sugar cane stalks into the juice extractor.

    Not again, he thought to himself.

    This was the third time that Mr Neo Hock Swee, 55, had hurt his thumb this way.

    The drinks stall owner turned off the switch before his thumb was crushed.

    But he could not free the digit, and it took Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel about an hour to do so.

    The hawker's wound required several stitches - the worst of his three accidents.

    Three months ago, he lost his thumb nail. Another time, he hurt the bone in his thumb. Mr Neo did not call the SCDF the previous two times.

    The latest accident happened at about 6pm on Saturday, at his stall in the food centre of Beauty World Centre in Bukit Timah.

    Customers nearby rushed to help after hearing his shouts. Mary, who is in her 50s, said: "I saw Mr Neo maintaining his composure while asking people to call the emergency services. It was amazing how he was calm the whole time, and could even smile."

    SCDF confirmed that it received a call at 6.03pm and dispatched a fire engine, a Red Rhino, an ambulance and two other support vehicles to the scene.

    An Allen key was used to open the machine, and Mr Neo - who called his ordeal "a small matter" - was taken to National University Hospital.

    "I felt pain for only a short while because my thumb went numb after that," he said.

    Mr Michael Koh, who also runs a drinks stall at the food centre, said the extractor which Mr Neo uses poses a greater risk to the operator.

    "There are no safety mechanisms in the old machine because it is fully exposed. Just a small lapse in concentration could lead to a bad injury, so you have to avoid even talking to customers while extracting the juice.

    "I use a newer model which has a box where you insert the sugar cane stalks, and it prevents your hand from entering the extractor."

    Despite his doctor's advice to start work only in two weeks, Mr Neo has resumed business.