SINGAPORE: The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student who died in a freak accident in Slovakia last month lived life to the fullest and touched many people in his 23 years, family and friends said in a statement issued by the varsity on Tuesday (Dec 6).
Justin Tan Honng Tze, a third-year mechanical engineering undergraduate on an exchange programme at the Czech Republic at the VSB - Technical University Ostrava, was driving alone on Nov 19 when a tree crashed onto his car and injured his head. He did not regain consciousness and died days later in hospital, on Nov 25.
His father, Mr Mitchel Tan, said that despite the sadness over his son's passing, he was proud of what his son had achieved in his life, and hoped that he would inspire all those he had touched to "always be determined to be the best that you can be and never admit defeat".
“I am realising that Justin was blessed to have found his passion early in his short life, and that was living life to the fullest, and pursuing his life mission of helping others," Mr Tan said.
“My son Justin taught me so much about life. Son, you have graduated, and your Pa is still studying and has a long way to go."
In the same statement, NTU said Justin was fondly remembered as "a friendly and adventurous young man who always pursued his interests with passion and who spread his infectious positive energy to all around him".
Chair of NTU's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Louis Phee remembered him as an academically strong student who was also "full of energy" and a nature lover.
"His jovial character made him very popular among his friends and more often than not, he saw the funnier side of things."
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, 18 of Justin's classmates who are also on exchange in the Czech Republic made the 400km train journey over six hours through the winter storm to see him for a final time at the hospital last Friday, NTU said.
One of them, Mr Tan Choon Yong, said Justin's "outgoing and social personality" made him many friends.
"He often shared with us all his adventures, whenever he returned from a trip. And if we ever needed help from planning a trip, he would share his experience and advised us as well," he said.
NTU Professor Ooi Kim Tiow, who accompanied Justin's parents and younger brother to Slovakia, said the fact that his classmates travelled the distance to send him off on his final journey despite being in the middle of exams "speaks volumes of the kind of positive energy Justin has always had on his friends".
“On the hospital bed, Justin looked serene and at peace. He was very close to his brother, Malcolm who sang to him in hospital. We were all hoping that a miracle could happen and Justin would regain consciousness," Prof Ooi recalled.
NTU's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is planning a special memorial service in January for his schoolmates and professors to pay tribute to him. The university will continue to offer counselling care to Justin’s family and schoolmates to help them cope with the emotional impact of their loss, it added.
ORGANS DONATED TO PATIENTS IN SLOVAKIA
After doctors at the hospital certified him brain-dead, Justin's parents agreed to donate his heart, liver and two kidneys to four patients in Slovakia. This is something Justin would have wanted, according to his father in the statement.
"Less than a year before the incident, he told me and Malcolm (his brother) that he would definitely without fail donate his organs upon his passing."
Mr Tan said he made the decision to donate Justin's organs in Slovakia, where doctors could perform the transplants immediately, after considering the long travel time and the challenge of transferring the organs with emergency equipment back to Singapore. "I believe that Justin had been here for a reason," he added.
The Tan family said in the statement that although Justin’s body has been cremated, "we know that a part of him continues to live in the bodies of four other people".
"We hope that Justin’s gift to them will inspire them to live fully and with the same positive spirit that our precious son has always had," they added.
The family also expressed their thanks to everyone for their kind words and support during this difficult time, the statement said.