Negligence caused the death of trainees who were crushed by train; SMRT engineer gets 4 weeks jail


The SMRT engineer who was in charge of two SMRT trainees who were crushed by a train in March 2016 was sentenced to four weeks’ jail yesterday (12 Mar). The man, 48-year-old Lim Say Heng, had pleaded guilty to one charge of causing death by negligence, which carried a maximum 2 year jail term and a fine.

The court heard that Lim – who had worked for SMRT since 1999 – led a 15-person team on foot to investigate a possible signalling fault between Tampines and Pasir Ris stations. Lim did not warn incoming trains that personnel were conducting works on the track, and had only left a handwritten note at Tampines station.

The men reached the worksite shortly after 11am and at 11.05am, Lim stepped off the walkway and onto the track – not noticing that a train was approaching. Control room staff who had seen Lim step onto the track tried to radio the team who did not attend to the call. An employee then left the control room to shout at the men to get off the track.

Lim heard the shouts and jumped off the track, back onto the walkway. However, 25-year-old Nasrulhudin Najumudin and 24-year-old Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari had followed Lim’s lead and had stepped onto the track behind Lim. Both trainees could not move fast enough and were fatally hit by the oncoming train that was travelling up to 80 kilometres per hour.

SMRT and Director of Control Operations fined

Lim and the driver of the train that killed the trainees were fired months after the accident. SMRT and the rail operator’s director of control operations Teo Wee Kiat faced charges, alongside Lim, in December 2016.

SMRT had been ordered to pay a hefty S$400,000 fine after it was convicted for failing to ensure the safety and health of employees at work, under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

In court last February, the prosecutor noted that the accident occurred “against the backdrop of an inexcusable systemic failure to ensure…strict compliance with (safety guidelines)” and castigated the the Operations Control Centre that Teo led for “giving the green light to employees (to work) in clear contravention of (safety guidelines)”.

Teo was subsequently fined S$55,000 in September last year, after the prosecutor argued that Teo was aware that safety protocols were regularly ignored and that he still did not do anything about this.

Interestingly, Teo was still an employee of SMRT at the time he was sentenced and was credited for instating stricter protocols governing track access during traffic hours.

Lim’s “career has gone to shambles” – Defence argued for fine instead of jail

Yesterday, Lim’s defence lawyer Lee May Ling argued that the maximum fine of S$10,000 would be fair since Lim “was not solely responsible for the implementation of safety protocols…(and) was not the only person who had failed to abide (by them)”.

Pointing to “systemic failures” at SMRT to enforce safety protocols, Lee added, “There were multiple points of responsibility, at least from the fact of the multiple parties charged and convicted”.

Urging the court to keep in mind that Lim has already paid a price for his negligence, Lee revealed that Lim now struggles to provide for his wife, children and elderly parents who are ill, as “His career has gone to shambles”. She added: “Above all, (Lim) has paid the price of his negligence by having to face the fact every day that Nasrulhudin and Asyraf have lost their lives.”

The lawyer also pointed out that the effects of a fine between SMRT or the well-paid Teo and Lim differ greatly as Lim would have greater difficulty paying a $10,000 fine given his circumstances: “The effects of a financial penalty on an organisation like SMRT and a well-paid director like (Teo) completely differ from the effect of a financial penalty on a man like (Lim)”

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt, however, found that a jail term was warranted since Lim’s failure to check that safety protocols had been followed on the day of the accident was the “most proximate and direct cause of death”.


    • Poor thing, PAP cronies made an example out of him, to instill fear and to silence criticisms, to give a false sense of justice.
      A classic case of PAP’s you die you own business to save their own skins in the upper echelon.
      The rich could pay their way out, while the poor will pay with jail terms.
      What happened to the witch ceo who started the systematic failures? Should be enjoying her millions now after cosy up with jinx to get the plum job.
      Let this be a warning to the daft 70%

  1. When SAF officers f#%k up, leading to fatal accidents, they get away with a slap on their wrists. Several have progressed in their careers like it never even happened. How does this differ from those accidents? Thus shit is getting too hard to swallow!

  2. Enemy in front, charge!!! That’s typical of military training. I guess the poor engineer was instructed by his boss to lead a group of rookies to check the signalling problem. Can he say no to his boss? I remember seeing a tv interview after the accident and heard the big boss saying that they would carry out urgent repair work even when the trains were running. I suppose it is okay if there are two tracks and one is used by the train while the other track is free. The problem is that the train was put on the wrong track and what happened to its anti collision detector at the front? Was it removed as in the recent train collision case ? The problem is certainly much deeper than what is concluded.

  3. One who draws so little salary have to be responsible for everything, while those who draw huge sum can get away with anything. The only mistake he made was too hardworking and thinking that he can solve 20 years of negligence in maintenance, which is not his fault in the first place. Although I doubt a simple engineer like him can called the shot on the whole operation. Most likely someone from the upper management dispatch him and his team to the site via verbal notification, thus no prove to state his innocence. Simply a case of “those who are still alive have to take the blame”.

  4. Can sinkies see the stark parallel? PAP government is running this country aground due to their incompetence but the blame (lack skills, hides not thick, not giving births, a whole lot of bullshits…) falls on poor sinkies who have to take the blunt of the sufferings!

  5. Mr Lim, u are only struggling, and no one knows if its true. but e trainees want move a finger also cannot, dont even talk about struggle.

    And those who are hiding under e pile of spore dollars blanket, u cant hide there for long. karma will eventually find u.