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‘Eleanor is no more’: Grandfather recounts harrowing call, shock at 4-year-old girl’s death

‘Eleanor is no more’: Grandfather recounts harrowing call, shock at 4-year-old girl’s death
Mr Ang, the grandfather of Eleanor Tan Si Xuan, seen at the four-year-old's wake. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

‘Eleanor is no more’: Grandfather recounts harrowing call, shock at 4-year-old girl’s death

SINGAPORE — Describing his granddaughter as jovial and respectful, the heartbroken grandfather of four-year-old Eleanor Tan Si Xuan, who was killed earlier this week in a road accident, said that he was in shock when he learnt she had lost her life.

Speaking to TODAY on Wednesday (Oct 11) at the girl’s wake at a public housing block on Bukit Batok Street 31, Mr Ang, 53, a private-hire car driver who declined to give his full name, said he was driving in the city when he received a call from his daughter and Eleanor’s mother, Ms Jacelyn Wong.

The words uttered to him: “Eleanor (is) no more already.”

Rushing to Eleanor’s side at the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, where the girl and the family’s domestic helper were taken, Mr Ang said he could not accept the fact that she had been pronounced dead.

“I hoped my granddaughter would wake up ... I knew the doctor already pronounced (her dead). But I just kept talking to her. I hope there would be some (miracle),” he said, adding that Ms Wong and her husband were also holding Eleanor’s hand and “asking her to wake up”.

At about 6.40pm on Monday, Eleanor and the family’s helper, who were on their way home from the girl’s childcare centre, were hit by a car along Bukit Batok Central towards Bukit Batok West Avenue 2.

There were no traffic lights at the spot where the duo had crossed the road, he said. The domestic helper regained consciousness on Tuesday, added Mr Ang.

A spokesperson for the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital told TODAY on Wednesday afternoon that the domestic helper was in a stable condition. 

A 53-year-old male driver has been arrested for causing death by a rash act. Police investigations are in progress.

Mr Ang last saw Eleanor on Monday morning, as she had stayed overnight at his home on Bukit Batok Street 21, which is two blocks away from her childcare centre.

He and his wife, a professional in the service line, have been caring for Eleanor since she was born in December 2012. She bunks in at their home frequently since it is closer to her childcare centre, which she attends on weekdays.

Typically, her grandmother would take her to the childcare centre in the mornings. However, there are times when she would ask Mr Ang to take her instead, if she noticed that her grandmother had not eaten breakfast, he said.

On how Eleanor’s mother, Ms Wong, was coping with the loss, Mr Ang said: “We told her to accept it. The accident has already happened.”

Ms Wong had told Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News she would typically pick Eleanor up from the childcare centre, but did not do so on Monday as she was cooking her daughter’s favourite dish of steamed eggs at home.

“Mothers have sixth sense. When I was cooking, I was already feeling very uneasy,” the 24-year-old said. “When I received the call from the hospital, I thought my daughter was just injured. It was only when my husband and I went to the hospital that we found out that our daughter was gone.”

Ultimately, Mr Ang said the family should stay happy for Eleanor. “The most important thing is that we live happily (and) let Eleanor watch us be happy, so she’ll be happy as well,” he told TODAY.

When asked what he would remember Eleanor most for, Mr Ang said: “Her smile; she’s always smiling. She is always respectful, so all the elders in the family dote on her.”

Ms Julien Caballero, 26, Eleanor's form teacher last year at the Prince Siddhattha Child Care Centre on Bukit Batok Street 21, described the girl as a very friendly and expressive child. Although she is no longer Eleanor's form teacher, the little girl would still "never forget to say 'hello'", she recounted.

Eleanor was also independent and would try to solve problems at the centre herself and "ask for help only when she needs it", Ms Caballero added.

When the centre's principal broke the news to staff members via text message early on Tuesday, it was a huge shock. "I felt like I lost my own child," Ms Caballero told TODAY.

Noting that the mood at the centre was subdued and the teachers were very sad, she said: "I hope I have really done something in her life. I have been trying to have flashbacks and memories of her."