Hokkaido accident: ‘Only thing I could hear was my wife screaming in the car and I can still hear it’
The Straits Times
Jan 19, 2023
He was driving a rental car in Hokkaido, Japan, with his wife and two daughters in the back seat when a lorry collided with their vehicle.
The last thing Mr Karthik Balasubramanian heard before he passed out was his wife, Ms Lin Xiuyue, screaming.
Ms Lin, 41, and their four-month-old daughter, Aahana, did not survive the accident on Jan 10.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Thursday at the wake of his wife and daughter in Jurong West, Mr Karthik, 44, said the sound of his wife crying out just before the crash still haunts him.
Recalling the moments before the accident, he said road conditions did not allow him to get a good view of an upcoming intersection that was not shown on the GPS map he was using to navigate.
“The road was up and down and up and down,” he said.
“You can’t see anything because there’s snow on both sides… You just follow the road and keep driving.
“So (at) the very last minute, like maybe 150m or something, I saw the stop sign. Then I started applying the brakes, but it was too late to stop.
“The only thing I could hear was my wife screaming in the car, like one loud scream. And I can still hear it. After that, I blacked out probably for a few minutes.”
His smartwatch alerted him that he had been in an accident. He got out of the car to help his family.
As local drivers came to their aid, Mr Karthik’s wife, who was bleeding badly, lay on his lap.
He tried blowing air into her mouth while a passer-by compressed her chest to try to resuscitate her.
An ambulance that arrived shortly after took Ms Lin and Aahana to the hospital.
There, doctors tried in vain to restart Ms Lin’s heart. Aahana did not suffer any physical injuries but could not recover from the shock of the accident, Mr Karthik said.
The couple’s three-year-old daughter, Aanya, needed stitches on her head, while Mr Karthik suffered a hip fracture.
He was given the option of surgery or to let it naturally heal while taking painkillers, and he chose the latter.
“I cannot be bedridden because I have a daughter to take care of,” he said.
The father and daughter returned to Singapore on Wednesday night. The funeral of Ms Lin and Aahana is on Friday.
Mr Karthik said the trip was going well before the accident. The family visited places such as a zoo in Asahikawa to watch a penguin march. He added that he and his wife were confident about travelling with their baby as she was a fuss-free and quiet child.
Although this was their first trip to Japan as a family, the couple had travelled there many times, including six visits to Hokkaido – two of which were also in the winter.
They preferred driving on their own rather than joining tour groups.
Mr Karthik said he fell in love with the country during his first visit in 2016.
As a vegetarian, he had reservations initially as he thought that the country would not have many food options for him.
Mr Karthik, who is originally from India, met Ms Lin in 2006 through a mutual friend and they began dating in 2007, before marrying in 2014.
He said: “In India, it is not like how it is here (in Singapore). Interracial relationships are not really very common in India. (But) my parents were very agreeable to Xiuyue because she was such a nice person.”
Mr Karthik’s sister flew to Singapore from India after the accident to support him, and his mother will be here next month.
He said Ms Lin’s family and friends have been supportive, and he is confident that he will not face any issues in raising Aanya.
“They have been very supportive and encouraging, helping to motivate me to carry on,” he said.