BUTTERWORTH: Tow truck service runner Tan Chin Leong is a familiar figure riding his motorcycle along the North-South Expressway and Penang Bridge, equipped with his faithful walkie-talkie.
However, the 39-year-old from Permatang Pauh, fondly known as Ah Heang, deals with more than stalled and wrecked vehicles.
The bachelor has rescued a significant number of people who wanted to end their lives by leaping off the Penang Bridge in the past decade.
Tan, who started working as a tow truck service runner after finishing school, said most people who were contemplating suicide were easy to identify, as they tended to show similar behaviour.
“They always come alone. Most will be teary-eyed, while some would still be crying.
“They look pale and sombre, indicating that they have lost hope and see suicide as the last resort,” he told The Star when met at the Penang Bridge toll plaza yesterday.
The seventh of eight siblings said that over the years, he had saved more than 10 people from jumping off the bridge.
“Early last year, I stopped a 52-year-old man from jumping. I believe he owed money to loan sharks.
“It was about 8.15pm when I saw him standing at the edge of the bridge, with his motorcycle parked nearby. He was crying and I asked if he needed help, although I was aware that he was very distraught and was attempting suicide.
“The man said he wanted to die. I talked to him, trying to buy some time, while I called the police,” he said, adding that with the help of the police, they managed to prevent the man from ending his life that day.
However, three days later, Tan said he was saddened when he received information that the man died after jumping off the bridge.
But there are also cases with happy endings for Tan, like the case of a 30-year-old woman whom he saved from jumping off the bridge last December.
“She was standing at the edge of the bridge with her Perodua Viva parked by the roadside. I stopped my motorcycle, ran towards her and grabbed hold of her.
“She struggled to escape, and even bit hard on my arm until it bled, but I didn’t let her go.
“With the help of the PLUS response team, we managed to restrain her until the police came and took her away. Until today, my arm still has a big scar from the bite,” recalled Tan.
Besides a big bottle of petrol and water to help vehicles that run out of fuel, Tan also carries along a bag of tools to repair stalled vehicles.
Nowadays, Tan, who works at a workshop in Permatang Pauh, is often accompanied by his friend Che Muhammad Izamie Che Mazlan, 23, on his rounds.
“We start work at about 6am before the morning traffic rush begins and finish about midnight, doing an average of 10 rounds a day,” he said.
He advised people not to give up easily on their lives.
“Think of your loved ones. Suicide never solves anything,” he added.
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