SMRT’s Senior Vice President for the Circle Line and Bukit Panjang LRT at SMRT, Chia Chun Wah’s testimony at the coroner’s inquiry into the death of Malaysian Ang Boon Tong at Fajar Station is well and truly incredible.
The coroner’s inquiry revealed yesterday that Ang had died after 2 driverless LRTs ran over him after he drunkenly stumbled and fell onto the tracks at Fajar LRT Station train platform at 12.40am, on 24 March this year.
The single train service controller in the operation control room did not spot Ang’s fall, instead occupied by a whopping 46 CCTV feeds on 22 monitors in front of her showing movements of the station that was about to close for the day.
After falling onto the tracks, the 43-year-old victim was conscious enough to sit up and roll to his left. Unfortunately, he could not move out of the way before the first train pulled up at the station and ran over him.
The sole passenger of the train, an SMRT staff member, reported that he heard a sound but did not stop to investigate.
10 minutes later, another train ran over Ang, at which point another SMRT staff member noticed the train’s carriage jerking upwards. That staff member was the one who spotted Ang’s body and notified the control centre.
Chia, however, indicated that there are “no plans” to change the existing system to prevent such accidents in future. He testified that:
1. LRT trains have no obstruction detection systems, and there are no plans to add any such system.
2. The safest option for passengers who have fallen onto the tracks is to stay at the “safe location” in the middle of two electrified train tracks. This “safe location” is not clearly marked. “We don’t publicise that,” Chia said, adding that there are no plans to do so.
3. Another option for passengers who have fallen onto the tracks is to shout for help so that someone on the platform might sound the alarm by pressing one of the emergency stop plungers located at either end of the platform, that would cut power to the trains.
Again, there is no signage informing passengers what happens when they press the plunger and there are no plans to install any such signage.
4. Lastly, Chia said that a passenger who has fallen onto the tracks can make their way to the end of the platform, where there a flight of stairs leads back into the station. But, of course, he added that there is “no signage to show where the stairs are.”
5. Chia reported that a video analytics system has been deployed to detect foreign objects on train tracks. However, even this initiative seems pointless as it is unclear whether the system would be able to sound an alarm to the control center and stop the train, if it recognises a foreign object.
State Coroner Marvin Bay, who ruled Ang’s death as an accident. said in response to Chia’s outrageous admissions:
“It would also be useful to raise public awareness of the emergency stop plunger, the safety zone on the tracks and staircase access back to the platform to avert disaster whenever a person falls onto the tracks.”
Bay called the video initiative “a step in the right direction,” while classifying Ang’s death as a “a truly tragic misadventure.”
Ang fell at 12.42am and was pronounced dead by paramedics at 2.20am. The inquiry heard that at the time of his fall, he had 232mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – about thrice the legal limit of alcohol for drivers.
He leaves behind his wife and three children between the ages of 9 and 17.