Hero of Pe­nang Bridge

Tow truck driver has stopped over 10 peo­ple from jump­ing to their deaths

The Star Malaysia - - FRONT PAGE - By LO TERN CH­ERN [email protected]­tar.com.my

Ah Heang ‘tows’ them back from the brink.

BUT­TER­WORTH: As tow truck ser­vice run­ner Tan Chin Leong rides his mo­tor­cy­cle back and forth across the Pe­nang Bridge daily, he is not just look­ing out for ve­hi­cles that break down but also keep­ing an eye for peo­ple who look like they are about to jump off the bridge.

Fondly known as “Ah Heang”, the 40-year-old bach­e­lor is one of the win­ners of this year’s Star Golden Hearts award for res­cu­ing more than 10 peo­ple from end­ing their lives over the past decade.

There is no com­fort­able of­fice chair or eight-hour job for Tan. In­stead, he waits for re­ports on his walkie-talkie.

He starts work at about 6am be­fore the rush-hour be­gins and fin­ishes around mid­night.

Some­times, the re­ports, which come in dur­ing the early hours, aren’t about stalled or wrecked ve­hi­cles but sight­ings of peo­ple stand­ing at the edge of the bridge.

Tan, who started work­ing as a tow truck ser­vice run­ner af­ter fin­ish­ing school, said most peo­ple who con­tem­plated sui­cide were easy to iden­tify.

“They al­ways come alone. Most would be teary-eyed, while some would still be cry­ing.

“They look pale and som­bre – a sign that they have lost hope and see sui­cide as the last re­sort,” he added.

Some­times, work­ers at the toll plazas spot them first, es­pe­cially mo­tor­cy­clists who ride past with­out hel­mets or proper at­tire.

“These are ab­nor­mal be­hav­iour that need to be mon­i­tored,” Tan said.

The meth­ods he uses to stop peo­ple from jump­ing off the bridge range from ver­bally con­sol­ing them to phys­i­cally pulling them off the ledge.

In De­cem­ber last year, a pic­ture of Tan hold­ing on to a 30-year-old woman he had just saved was pub­lished in the lo­cal dailies.

Tan said he spot­ted the woman, who had parked her car by the road­side.

He stopped his mo­tor­cy­cle, ran to­wards her and grabbed hold of her.

“In the process of bring­ing her to safety, she strug­gled and bit my arm un­til it bled but I would not let go,” Tan re­called.

The PLUS re­sponse team then helped to re­strain her be­fore po­lice took her away.

Not all of Tan’s at­tempts to save lives ended hap­pily.

“Early last year, I stopped a 52-year-old man from jump­ing.

“I be­lieve he owed money to loan sharks and he was dis­traught.

“He said he wanted to die. I talked to him to buy time while wait­ing for the po­lice to ar­rive and man­aged to bring him to safety.”

But three days later, the man went back to the bridge, jumped off and died.

Tan’s ad­vice to peo­ple is to not give up eas­ily on their lives.

“I have friends and fam­ily mem­bers and I am thank­ful, ev­ery sin­gle day, for hav­ing them around.

“Ev­ery­one should also cher­ish their loved ones.

“Sui­cide never solves any­thing,” he added.

Sui­cide never solves any­thing. Tan Chin Leong

This year’s Star Golden Hearts Award is sup­ported by Ga­muda. For more ar­ti­cles, go to thes­tar. com.my/star­gold­en­heart­saward.

To the res­cue: A file pic of Tan res­cu­ing a woman from jump­ing off the bridge in De­cem­ber last year. He was bit­ten while try­ing to save her.

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