Sunday, May 14, 2017

A mother uses her maternal instincts to save drowning schoolboys

Source Website: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/no-lifesaver-but-her-maternal-instincts-kicked-in-and-she-leapt
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 14 May 2017, 05:30 am


Housewife uses her maternal instincts to save 3 boys from drowning off East Coast Park
PHOTO: Housewife uses her maternal instincts to save 3 boys from drowning off East Coast Park
Ms Hajas said she leapt into the sea when she heard cries for help from the boys. Plunging into the waters off East Coast Park not once, not twice, but thrice, housewife Silvia Hajas managed to pull three schoolboys to shore before it was too late.
But the triathlete did not manage to reach one of the boys, who was struggling in the waters around Bedok Jetty and later disappeared at around noon yesterday.
ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO
Picture posted by Charmaine Ng, Ng Jun Sen on 09 May 2017 at 5:00 am SGT

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http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housewife-saves-3-boys-from-drowning



She may have completed three triathlons, but when Ms Silvia Hajas plunged into the sea off East Coast Park to help four struggling boys, it was a leap of faith.

"I'm not a lifesaver; I didn't know whether it was going to work," she told The Sunday Times in an interview at her Costa Del Sol flat on Friday, seated with a view of the beach where the tragedy struck around noon last Monday.

When the 47-year-old housewife heard cries of the children in distress, her maternal instincts kicked in, and she leapt into the churning water - swimming out 50m time and again, ignoring her screaming muscles and thumping heart as she pulled first one boy, then two, then three, to safety.



An eyewitness, Silvia Hajas, 47, a homemaker, was playing on a nearby sand dune with her eight-year-old daughter when she heard the boys' cries for help.
PHOTO: An eyewitness, Silvia Hajas, 47, a homemaker, was playing on a nearby sand dune with her eight-year-old daughter when she heard the boys' cries for help.
When the 47-year-old housewife heard cries of the children in distress, her maternal instincts kicked in, and she leapt into the churning water - swimming out 50m time and again, ignoring her screaming muscles and thumping heart as she pulled first one boy, then two, then three, to safety.
TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
Picture posted by Isabelle Liew, Smita Tiwary (The New Paper) on 08 May 2017 at 02:55 pm

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http://www.tnp.sg/sites/default/files/styles/pillarboxed_portrait/public/articles/2017/05/08/image2.jpg?itok=T1kS0Nu3
http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/just-body-boy-missing-waters-east-coast-park-found



With the first boy unable to swim, she felt all of his weight on her as she held him up above the water and pulled him back to shore with her right arm. "Everything was on my left arm and my legs kicking to propel me forward," she said.

Despite the adrenaline pumping through her veins, she found herself exhausted by the time she went back for the second boy. She yelled at him to flip onto his back in a floating position, but to no avail.

This made her life-saving efforts all the more difficult, as she could not hold him up above the water for long. At times, she would let him go momentarily to catch her breath.

"I knew I wouldn't let him go very far. I would let him go, but my hand was always nearby to pull him back up so we could keep going."

Meanwhile, her daughter stood on the shore, too afraid to look. "I was worried my mummy wasn't going to come back," said Trinity Neilson, eight, who is home-schooled. She and her mother had just arrived to admire the view and collect rocks for her geography project when the boys yelled in distress.

When Ms Hajas returned with the second boy, exhaustion had kicked in and she started to fear for her own life.

She knew she would not be able to save the remaining two boys alone, and started asking for help from passers-by. A man who looked like he was in his 60s said he could not swim, so she turned to another man in his 50s.

"I remember the sense of desperation when I looked at him and asked if he could swim. When he said yes, I was practically begging him to help me, saying I can't do this on my own," said the Australian national who has lived here for six years on a dependant's pass.

The man found a rescue float nearby which they used to reach the third boy. She said: "The boy was remarkably calm, and I felt so relieved when I saw him floating on his back. I knew he was going to be okay, even if it was going to take us a bit longer to get to him."

But by the time she went back into the water for the fourth boy, he had disappeared under the waves.



The body of a missing schoolboy, Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian, 12, was found in the waters off Bedok Jetty yesterday afternoon (08 May 2017) after a search operation that lasted three hours.
PHOTO: The body of a missing schoolboy, Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian, 12, was found in the waters off Bedok Jetty yesterday afternoon (08 May 2017) after a search operation that lasted three hours. The boy was a student at Jurongville Secondary School, and had headed for a swim with his friends in the waters off East Coast Park after taking an examination paper yesterday morning.
ST PHOTO: DAVE LIM
Picture posted by Charmaine Ng, Ng Jun Sen on 09 May 2017 at 5:00 am SGT

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http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housewife-saves-3-boys-from-drowning



Muhammad Suhaimi Sabastian's body was found three hours later, at 3.33pm, by the Singapore Civil Defence Force's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team. Suhaimi, 12, was a student at Jurongville Secondary School, along with the other boys. They were swimming after an exam paper that morning.

That night, Ms Hajas kept replaying the events in her mind, analysing what she could have done differently that would have saved Suhaimi's life. She wondered if using the rescue device earlier would have saved him.

"Mother's Day is around the corner and I can't imagine how his mother would be feeling.



School leaders, staff and counsellors are currently providing emotional support and assistance to the family in their time of grief.
PHOTO:School leaders, staff and counsellors are currently providing emotional support and assistance to the family in their time of grief. We are also supporting and counselling affected students and staff."
Muhammad, a Secondary 1 student, was the youngest of 3 sons. We offer our condolences and prayers to the family of this young boy.
Even until death, our Lord will not abandon us. Our Lord would surely go with him. Our Lord who had died and was raised would personally guide him safely through death and usher him into the eternal kingdom in the presence of God.
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
Picture posted by Holy Angels of Light on Sunday, 02 October 2016
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"The practical side of me knows that I've saved three boys, but the emotional side of me is never going to be able to let go of that one boy I didn't manage to save," she said.

Three days after the incident, she returned with her daughter to the scene - about a 10-minute walk from their home. The view was just as beautiful as it was before, except now, Ms Hajas saw the water differently. Beneath those calm waves, she envisioned turbulent currents.

PHOTO: Ms Silvia Hajas took a picture of the sea at East Coast Park that showed seven boys swimming about 50m away from the shoreline.


Ms Silvia Hajas took a picture of the sea at East Coast Park that showed seven boys swimming about 50m away from the shoreline.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SILVIA HAJAS
Picture posted by Charmaine Ng, Ng Jun Sen on 09 May 2017 at 5:00 am SGT

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http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housewife-saves-3-boys-from-drowning



She told Trinity that regardless of the drowning, the sea was not the enemy. "You can't be afraid of the water. You have to face it front on. It's like the old saying: 'If you fall off a horse, you got to get back on'."

Mother and daughter will be taking part in an open-water race next weekend in Bintan.

The tragedy also stunned her husband John, 45. For a few days, he had difficulty coming to grips with the possibility of losing his wife of 14 years.

"But I wouldn't want her to have done anything differently," said Mr Neilson, who is head of technology risk at DBS Bank.

Ms Hajas has received much support from the public - more than 15 strangers have sent her private messages on Facebook.

These messages have helped her in the healing process, she said.

She hopes that by sharing her experience, more parents will be aware of the importance of sending their children for swimming lessons - not just for the sport, but for the critical lifesaving skills.



Ms Hajas hopes that by sharing her experience, more parents will be aware of the importance of sending their children for swimming lessons - not just for the sport, but for the critical lifesaving skills.
PHOTO: Ms Hajas hopes that by sharing her experience, more parents will be aware of the importance of sending their children for swimming lessons - not just for the sport, but for the critical lifesaving skills.
Picture posted by Silvia Hajas, Red3 on 12 July 2015
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"It's a life skill that could potentially save your life or the life of somebody you care about, or a stranger in trouble," said Ms Hajas.

The family will be spending Mother's Day today at Sentosa, as Ms Hajas and Trinity train for next weekend's race.

Trinity said that while her mother did not tell her what she was doing before she jumped into the water that day, she knew that mum was saving the boys.

"It's what my mum does. She's a superhero."



Trinity said that while her mother did not tell her what she was doing before she jumped into the water that day, she knew that mum was saving the boys.
PHOTO: Trinity said that while her mother did not tell her what she was doing before she jumped into the water that day, she knew that mum was saving the boys.
"It's what my mum does. She's a superhero."
Picture posted by Silvia Hajas, Red3 on 08 December 2011 at 5:23 PM
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http://red3-red3.blogspot.sg/2011/12/polliwogs-play-centre-that-lengthy-walk.html?m=0



Woman who saved 3 boys struggling in the sea unable to forget she couldn't save the fourth
PHOTO: Woman who saved 3 boys struggling in the sea unable to forget she couldn't save the fourth
Ms Hajas with her husband John Neilson and daughter Trinity. The family will be spending Mother's Day today at Sentosa, as Ms Hajas and Trinity train for a race next weekend.
ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO
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http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/no-lifesaver-but-her-maternal-instincts-kicked-in-and-she-leapt


By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 14 May 2017, 05:30 am
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline ''No lifesaver' but her maternal instincts kicked in and she leapt'.
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Reference
[1] Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, Drowning of schoolboy off East Coast Park: 'No lifesaver' but housewife's maternal instincts kicked in and she leapt, posted on 14 May 2017, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/no-lifesaver-but-her-maternal-instincts-kicked-in-and-she-leapt

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