Singapore, Apr 25 (PTI) Every night, 50-year-old Sugunan Shanthi would wait for a call from her son, a construction worker in Singapore, so that her worries about him contracting COVID-19 would be eased.
Nearing midnight on April 19, her 28-year-old son Sugunan Sudheeshmon called to inform that he was safe and had just got back to his dormitory in Tuas. That was the last time the construction worker spoke to his mother, reported The Straits Times.
Shanthi, 50, was worried about losing her son to COVID-19 but in the end, it was a road accident that took his life.
Hours after their last conversation, Sudheeshmon was travelling on the back of a lorry when it crashed into a stationary tipper truck on the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE). He died on Thursday night.
A distraught Shanthi, who is from the southern Indian state of Kerala, told daily on Saturday morning: 'I used to pray 'Please don't let him get a fever,' 'Don't let him get Covid,' and then this happened... He came through all of that only for this to happen.' Also a domestic worker in Singapore, the mother added: 'I never expected to take him back as a dead body. He had so many dreams; I wasn't expecting them to be shattered.' Sudheeshmon, who leaves behind his wife and 18-month-old son, had hoped to make enough money to buy land and build a house that the family could live in, she added.
Shanthi, a widow, had to leave her two sons behind when she moved to Singapore to work 13 years ago. Sudheeshmon was then 14 and his brother, 11. They both lived with an aunt after their mother left.
Sudheeshmon, whose husband died before she came to work in Singapore, said: 'I had to leave my children and come here and I didn't want his son to grow up in somebody else's house... He wanted to make enough to build a house and go back and I wanted that family to stay together.' Shanthi pawned family jewellery to pay for his broker's fees to join his mother and work in Singapore about two-and-a-half years ago.
The mother and son would meet on their days off, even when COVID-19 restrictions only allowed them to do so for a few hours a week.
Sudheeshmon was married and had an 18-month-old son. Shanthi recalled how her son's roommates would make fun of him because his mother still bought him clothes and food.
At their last meeting a few weeks ago, Sudheeshmon was teased because he insisted on holding his mother's handbag for her.
She recounted how the pair went to a shopping mall to buy lottery tickets.
She said: 'He never expected to die here.' But at about 6 am on Tuesday morning, he was travelling on the back of a lorry with 16 others to a worksite in Woodlands when the lorry collided into a stationary tipper truck on the PIE towards Changi Airport.
Another worker, Toffazal Hossain, a 33-year-old Bangladeshi, died in hospital on Tuesday. Five other workers remain in hospital.
The lorry driver, a 36-year-old man, has been arrested for careless driving causing death.
Shanthi returns to India with her son's body on Saturday night and is aware she might not be able to return to Singapore soon due to COVID-19 restrictions as at 11.59 pm on Friday, long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have travelled to India within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter Singapore. But she has decided to be with her family and her other son.
Following the accident, Shanthi hopes that more can be done to ensure that workers are transported safely.
According to the Land Transport Authority's One Motoring website, lorries are currently allowed to ferry workers between their lodgings and workplace. However, they must not travel faster than the road speed limit, or 60 kmh, whichever is lower.
Among other rules, workers carried on the carriage deck of lorries must be properly seated 'in a manner that would not cause them to fall off the vehicle' and the lorry must not carry more people than permitted based on the measure of a minimum deck space requirement of 4 sq ft per seated worker.
She called for the rules to be tightened to protect workers, for example, by making seat belts mandatory.
'I hope they make better measures... so no other mother will have to lose a child like this,' she said PTI GS PMS