Netizens slam ST for “victim-blaming” headline on woman’s death caused by falling tree at Marsiling Park

Some commenters point out that 38-year-old Loke Xiao Li was simply at the "wrong place at the wrong time", while others question NParks' role in the upkeep of aged trees in public parks

Following the tragic death of a woman after a tree fell on her at Marsiling Park, The Straits Times (ST) reported that 38-year-old Loke Xiao Li was wearing noise-cancelling earbuds when the unfortunate incident happened.

On Thursday (18 Feb), Ms Loke, who was identified as a Mediacorp staff, was pronounced dead at the scene after a 20m-tall Araucaria excelsa tree fell on her while she was jogging at the park.

The tree — commonly known as Norfolk Island pine or Australian pine — had a girth of 1.3m. It was found to be healthy when an inspection was carried out by the National Parks Board (NParks) in April last year.

Ms Loke’s sister, Gillian Loke, told ST that her sister may have been able to hear a cracking sound and gotten out of the way of the falling tree in time if she did not wear her earbuds.

ST inspected the earbuds and found that the left earbud of the device was damaged, while the right earbud was intact with the silicon protective jacket still in place.

Ms Gillian said of the incident: “It was a beautiful day at the park and the skies were clear. I never thought this would happen to my sister.”

She said that her sister was not really an active person and that she had only taken up running recently.

“My sister was driven at work and a social butterfly. She had a way with people and was always surrounded by friends,” said Ms Gillian.

Woman was at “the wrong place at the wrong time”; not wearing noise-cancelling earbuds will not necessarily guarantee hearing cracking sound of falling tree, netizens say

On social media, netizens opined that wearing the noise-cancelling earbuds may not have played a part in what one commenter branded as a “freak accident”.

On ST’s Facebook page, they said that there is no guarantee that Ms Loke would have heard the cracking sound of the tree before it fell if she was not wearing the earbuds.

Others slammed ST for highlighting the part where Ms Loke wore noise-cancelling earbuds during her run at the park.

They said that ST is “victim-blaming” and that its headline is somewhat supporting NParks and the National Environment Agency (NEA)’s purported shortcomings in maintaining aged trees in public parks.

They stressed that it is the authorities’ responsibility to ensure that the trees in public parks are in good condition and would not harm those who are using the park.

One user questioned ST what it is trying to insinuate with its “clickbait title”.

“I am disappointed at how your clickbaitish title victim-blamed her for an incident that was totally an accident, a force majeure. Nobody could have predicted it, prevented it.

“I expect more from our national newspaper. Stop trying to create sensation and show more empathy. If not you are just a mouthpiece for whoever you serve,” the netizen wrote.

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