Tembusu tree accident: Inquiry into death of woman ends, findings due on Apr 30

Tembusu tree accident: Inquiry into death of woman ends, findings due on Apr 30

Mrs Radhika Angara
Ms Radhika Angara was killed after a 270-year-old tree, last inspected in September 2016 and deemed healthy, collapsed, crushing her and injuring four others, including her husband and one-year-old twins.

SINGAPORE: An inquiry into the death of a 38-year-old woman killed by a Tembusu tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens last February concluded on Tuesday (Apr 17).

Indian national Radhika Angara was with her husband and one-year-old twins when the massive 40m tree uprooted, injuring her family and one other person.

The four-day inquiry, spread out over about nine months, had revolved around why the 270-year-old heritage tree, last inspected in September 2016 and deemed healthy, would collapse.

At the close of the inquiry on Tuesday, Ms Angara’s father stood up to say a few words about the daughter he lost. She was “a young mother out on a pleasant day for a picnic with her babies”, he said.

It was a tragedy that could have been prevented “with some vigilant action” on the part of NParks, the father told the inquiry, which was also attended by Ms Angara’s mother, sister and husband.

“People have lost out,” he said, adding that a young father was widowed, a sister lost her friend and soulmate, and he and his wife will bear the burden of outliving their daughter.

The family pulled out portraits of the twin boys and set them on the table as the man spoke: “Two little children will never know how much their mother loved them.”

Tembusu tree 2
The Tembusu tree that fell was more than 270 years old and predates the establishment of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Among the witnesses at inquiry, which started in July, were three arborists and two NParks employees in charge of arboriculture at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, who is representing Ms Angara’s family, quizzed NParks’ director of streetscape Abdul Hamid on why the tree was not more closely examined for faults and how it could have collapsed “for no apparent reason”. 

The director, who is also an arborist, had testified that there were no external signs or symptoms of an internal decay, which was discovered only when the Tembusu tree fell, crushing Ms Angara.

When the tree uprooted, arborists observed that at the point where the trunk broke, it was 70 to 75 per cent decayed. Parts of the tree’s roots were also decayed or dead.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens’ deputy director Elango Velautham and senior manager Thaddeus Cheng had also testified, along with independent arborists Derek Yap of Camphora and Richard Gordon Thomas of ArborCulture.

Coroner Marvin Bay is expected to deliver his findings on Apr 30.

Source: CNA/vc/(gs)