Park Joo-bong and his mates were in happy mood as they gathered at the hotel lobby to send off Malaysian Masters champion Kento Momota and two others in a van to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for their trip home to Japan. In about half an hour, everything changed.
The South Korean, who is now coaching Japan, received the dreaded phone call.
He was told that Momota, coach Yu Hirayama, physiotherapist Morimoto Akifumi along with Hawkeye system operator William Thomas were involved in a horrific crash.
The man driving the van had been killed after the vehicle hit the back of a lorry.
A shaken Joo-bong rushed to the accident area and fear gripped him when he saw the front part of the van crushed behind the lorry.
“I had come down to send them off and went back to my room but not long after that, I received a call from Hirayama that they were involved in an accident, ” said Joo-bong.
“I called the other coaches and rushed to the place. Help had arrived by then but all of them were still there. I cannot explain the fear I had at that time. Momota was in a daze. We were all so shaken.”
They were taken to the Putrajaya Hospital where it was ascertained that the world No. 1 shuttler had suffered a stress fractured nasal bone, fractured cheekbone, needed stitches on his lips – and was obviously shaken and traumatised. He also suffered a gash on his right arm.
It was confirmed later that none of them suffered any serious internal injuries.
Momota is Japan’s best bet to win a gold medal at the home Olympic Games in July.
“Once Momota was stable in the hospital, he asked about his condition… he asked me whether he could still play, ” said Joo-bong
“I assured him that all he needed now was to sleep and recover. Everything has been settled, he does not have to worry, ” said Joo-bong.
While relieved that they had come through the worst, Joo-bong however, offered his condolences to driver N. Bavan’s family.
“I never expected this. I’m sorry that a life was lost.
“I have confidence that Momota will be on his feet after a good recovery to continue with his Olympic Games preparation.”
Joo-bong is expected to join his team in Jakarta today where they begin their campaign in the Indonesian Masters.
“One of the coaches will stay back with Momota and they will head back to Japan. I will join the rest of the team in Indonesia, ” he said.
“I want to thank everyone for all the support and care given to Momota and the team.”