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Woodlands lift fire death: Neighbour of man who died after PMD caught fire in lift heard ‘popping tiles’ sound

Woodlands lift fire death: Neighbour of man who died after PMD caught fire in lift heard ‘popping tiles’ sound

When CNA visited the second floor of the block, the lift had been cordoned off. (Photo: Cindy Co)

SINGAPORE: Mr Muhammad had been in his room, playing with his phone when he heard “funny noises” late on Thursday (Jun 3) night.

“(I heard some) funny noises outside, like popping tiles,” he told CNA.

Heading out to the living room, he noticed thick, black smoke “seeping" into his flat on the second floor of Block 537 Woodlands Drive 16.

He looked through the peephole and found the corridor outside his flat “black, smokey and orangey”, and immediately called the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the police.

Unknown to him at that point, a personal mobility device (PMD) had caught fire in a lift on the floor he lived on. A 20-year-old man subsequently died from severe burn injuries sustained in the incident, the police said.

“Late last night, a PMD caught fire inside a lift at Block 537. This resulted in a fire that grievously injured the rider and caused a serious fire in the lift, requiring evacuation of residents in the lower floors," said MP Vikram Nair (PAP-Sembawang) on Friday afternoon.

“Two families who saw the victim coming out of the lift rushed into action and helped doused the fire on him. SCDF then moved swiftly to help put out the fire in the lift,” he added.

Mr Muhammad was one of the two families who helped put out the fire, which broke out at about 11.25pm on Thursday. They lived nearest to the lift.

After he had called the authorities for help, he began preparing towels and buckets of water, said Mr Muhammad.

By the time he stepped out of his house, he saw that the police were already with the victim by the staircase.

“Me and my neighbour, we put out the fire on the floor (of the lift) only.” They left the ceiling alone, wary of making the situation worse, he said.

Mr Muhammad said the police asked him to inform the victim's next-of-kin of the incident, who lived on a higher floor. As he ran up the block, neighbours peered out of the corridors, said Mr Muhammad.

A fire involving a personal mobility device happened in a lift at Block 537 Woodlands Drive 16 on Jun 3, 2021. (Photos: Facebook/SCDF)

THICK BLACK SMOKE

Ms Fica, who lives on the third floor, said she was in her room when she had heard a scream and the sound of what she thought was “fighting”.

She and her parents, who were having supper in the living room, first brushed it off. But when smoke started entering their house, they realised that a fire had broken out.

“(The corridor was) all black because of the smoke,” Ms Fica, 28, told CNA.

They had initially thought the smoke was from their kitchen, but when her father tried opening the door to let the smoke out, more poured in, she said.

Mdm Teo, 70, who also lives on the third floor, said that she had shut her doors and windows when she first saw the smoke - but that it still crept in through the crevices. She also smelled burning plastic.

Another resident Ms Rose Jabbar, 57, said that as soon as she realised there was a fire, she quickly grabbed some masks and headed down the stairs with her elderly mother and infant grandson.

“I didn’t want them to inhale the smoke,” she said, adding that it was “very dark” on the second level, as the smoke was “very thick” and all the lights were off.

“People (were saying) that something exploded in the lift, there’s a boy there,” she said.

“I feel sorry for the boy,” she added.

Ms Fica said that she saw the victim being wheeled into an ambulance on a stretcher. His skin had "(turned) white" from the burns, although he was still breathing, she said.

Ms Fica - who said she is familiar with the victim’s parents - said the victim had several younger siblings.

Mr Nair told CNA on the phone on Friday that his understanding was that the victim was a GrabFood delivery rider.

While he said he did not have the full details, Mr Nair said he was aware that the victim’s PMD had caught fire, causing the inside of the lift to burn. "The victim came out screaming (and) two residents put the fire out," he said.

The MP added that he had visited the victim’s grandparents on Friday, and been in contact with one of the families that assisted the victim.

“(It is) very sad that a young chap has to die”, he said.

EVACUATION

When CNA visited the block on Friday afternoon, the lift had been cordoned off on the second floor, with black scorch marks on the interior of the lift and on the ceiling of the lift landing outside. There was still a faint smell of smoke.

Residents CNA spoke to said the police began evacuating residents shortly after they arrived. In all, 90 residents were evacuated as a precautionary measure, the police said.

The police started allowing residents to return to their flats about an hour later, floor by floor, said Ms Fica. 

Mr Nair told CNA that repairs on the lift started after the SCDF left at about 3am to 4am.

The lift was “badly damaged”, said Mr Nair, adding that it may take some time for it to be repaired.

"A KIND, GENTLE BOY"

Posting on Facebook on Friday, former member of parliament Amrin Amin said the victim was "a kind, gentle boy".

"On his PMD, he helped me deliver briyani to needy residents in Woodlands during Ramadan in 2018 and 2019," Mr Amin said.

"I'm sad by (the victim's) tragic passing," he said.

"I feel very sorry for his parents, family and friends. My deepest condolences for their profound loss. In this difficult time, I wish them strength and courage."

Additional reporting by Neo Rong Wei.​​​​​​​

Source: CNA/cc

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