[STAR STUDENT: Mindy was eager to go back to school.]
By Arul John
AS THE light turned green, they started to walk across the pedestrian crossing in Sengkang.
Then the maid saw a red van heading towards them.
Ms Ulmawati Asmo shouted at her employer's young daughter to run, but it was too late. The van, which was apparently making a right-hand turn, slammed into them.
Primary Four student Mindy Neo Rui Jing, 9, died in hospital while Ms Ulmawati, 24, escaped with minor injuries.
The accident occurred at the junction of Buangkok Drive and Punggol Road at 6.45am on Monday as Ms Ulmawati was walking Mindy to Punggol Primary School.
The crossing is about a minute's walk from Mindy's condominium home.
Ms Ulmawati told The New Paper that she was flung some distance by the impact.
'Everything went black and I passed out. When I came to, I tried to go to Mindy, but was scared when I saw a lot of blood around her,' the Surabaya native said in Bahasa Indonesia.
'Someone helped me to the side of the road and I sat there.'
Mindy was taken unconscious with multiple internal injuries to Changi General Hospital (CGH), where she died at about 9am.
Ms Ulmawati is warded at CGH with abrasions and cuts on her left arm, leg, hip and heel.
From her hospital bed yesterday, Ms Ulmawati said she only learnt of Mindy's death later on Monday, first from the police, then from her employer's wife.
'I was so upset. Every time I close my eyes, I see Mindy's face and her body at the accident scene,' she said.
Ms Ulmawati said she started working for Mr Neo Hwee Choon, 43, and Madam Ong Poh Geok, 44, who are both IT professionals, three months ago.
Mr Neo said she was their second maid.
Ms Ulmawati began walking Mindy, the elder of two children, to school two weeks after she started work.
With tears in her eyes, Ms Ulmawati said: 'Since Saturday, Mindy had been looking forward to going back to school after the holidays.
'While we were walking, she was so happy.'
She said the pedestrian crossing was usually crowded, but there were very few pedestrians on Monday.
'Mindy was walking on my left and I was holding her hand. I was a little ahead of her when I suddenly saw the van approaching us from the left. It came without warning, not even the sound of a horn.
'I told Mindy in English: 'Mindy, got van. You run!' But I did not hear any sound from her. Then the van hit my left hip and I flew forward.'
Mr Neo said Mindy loved school and was a good academic student.
He said he usually wakes up at 6.30am to make sure Mindy is on time for school.
'But on Monday, I overslept and woke up at about 7am. Mindy and the maid had left.
'A short while later, my wife shouted that Mindy had been in an accident. She said the caller had probably found our contact details in Mindy's school diary.'
Mr Neo regrets missing the chance to see his daughter for the last time.
His eyes teared as he said: 'When I woke up at 6.30am today, , I saw her empty bed and cried when I realised she was no longer with us. My wife and I miss her so much.'
Mr Neo said Mindy died exactly a month before her 10th birthday.
'Previously, there was always a school exam on her birthday. But she was looking forward to celebrating her birthday this year as there was no exam on that day.
'Now that will never happen.'
Mindy's school principal, Ms Chua Soh Leng, said one of the teachers was driving to school when he saw Mindy on the road. She said the teacher called her and helped direct traffic at the accident.
Soon after she arrived at the scene, Ms Chua said she accompanied Mindy and her mother to hospital in the ambulance.
She said: 'At first, we told Mindy's classmates about the accident and that she was in hospital. The teachers and counsellors were on hand to counsel the children.
'Many of the kids even made get-well cards for Mindy.'
But at 9am, Ms Chua had to tell the children that Mindy did not make it.
She said Mindy was an 'extraordinary' girl who, despite her petite frame, displayed courage, determination and maturity beyond her years.
'When she was in Primary One, she cried for three months and was afraid to go to school.
'After that, she told me that she would stop crying and she soon blossomed.
'She was intelligent, humble, respectful to her teachers, sensitive to the emotions of others, and loved solving problems and handling challenges. That was why she was a group leader in the school Maths Club.
'She was also a prefect and, based on the feedback from her teachers, I realised she had potential to be a Head Prefect later.'
Miss Loo Ai Lin, 24, Mindy's Chinese Language teacher, recalled how she composed and recorded a short piano piece and presented the CD to each of her teachers on Teacher's Day recently.
Mr Neo said he had bought Mindy a piano, which was delivered last month.
Miss Loo said: 'I was impressed as the piece was original and very touching.'
Police spokesman Mohd Hamizyam said the van driver, a delivery man in his 60s, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by a rash act.
He said the man has been released on bail.
Witnesses can call the traffic police hotline at 1800547 1818.
This article was first published in The New Paper.