Cigarette embers, sawdust could have caused fire
Coroner's inquiry into death of security guards in condo fire raises several points
She said to her supervisor over the radio set: "Uncle, fire". Then she went silent.
Madam Sooria Kala Kanaseon, 33, and Mr Sim Lai Huat, 55, both security officers with Pico Guards, were killed in the line of duty during a fire at the posh Marina Bay Suites condominium.
Their bodies were found in a fireman's lift of the Central Boulevard property in the Jan 13 incident.
Yesterday, a coroner's inquiry into their deaths revealed that they died from extensive severe burns.
Also brought up were issues that could have contributed to the pair's deaths.
1 THE CAUSE OF FIRE: CIGARETTE EMBER AND SAWDUST
Senior Investigation Officer (IO), Staff Sergeant (Sgt) Ahmad Salihin Mashadi, said the blaze started at the fire fighting lobby on the 65th floor of the condominium.
A penthouse unit on the same floor was undergoing renovation works performed by 11 construction workers from four different companies.
Sawdust was generated as the apartment was getting parquet flooring installed at that time. The sawdust was swept up and placed in a bag.
Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin told the court that, according to a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) fire investigation report, the blaze probably broke out after some cigarette embers came in contact with the sawdust.
Some cigarette butts and a cigarette box had been found inside a trash bag of sawdust in the unit. The SCDF believes that a similar bag had been placed at the lobby.
Said Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin: "The renovation materials and equipment placed at the lobby provided the fuel load to sustain the fire."
He also told State Coroner Marvin Bay that the last construction worker left the premises at around 6pm on Jan 13.
2 THE 'FALSE ALARM'
According to the Decentralised Alarm Monitoring Stations (Decams), managed by security solutions company Ademco Singapore, the fire alarm was triggered at 9.34pm on Jan 13.
A minute later, its call operator Fang Zhen Yuan, 27, received a call from Madam Sooria saying that it was activated at Marina Bay Suites and she would be investigating the matter.
In a later interview with the authorities, Mr Fang said that he had told one of his colleagues, operator Quek Zhen Hong , 30, about the alarm after speaking to Madam Sooria.
Mr Quek then offered to help him liaise with the SCDF.
But two minutes later, Mr Quek informed the SCDF operations centre that it was a false alarm.
In a report to the police at around 10.10pm that day, the SCDF stated that what was initially said to be a false alarm turned out to be an actual case of fire.According to the investigation report, Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin said Mr Quek later claimed that Mr Fang was the one who had told him that it was a false alarm.
The younger man, however, insisted that he did not relay such a message to his colleague.
The IO said that Ademco received another call from Madam Sooria at around 10.03pm. This time, she stressed that a fire had really broken out on the 65th floor of the condominium.
SCDF only received a call about the incident from an Ademco operator seven minutes later.
Coroner Bay asked Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin if the two security officers had to face the fire alone because of this miscommunication.
The IO said no, but added that it caused a delay in the dispatch of SCDF resources.
The coroner also highlighted possible timing discrepancies surrounding the incident. For instance, according to the Decams, the fire alarm was triggered at 9.34pm.
But the late security officers' supervisor, Mr Kuldip Singh, 53, said it was triggered at 9.55pm.
Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin said he would look into the matter.
3 THE JAMMED LIFT DOOR
The IO said Madam Sooria and Mr Sim took the lift and reached the 65th floor - only to find the fire at the lobby when the door opened.
Closed-circuit television footage of the incident showed Mr Sim pressing a lift button to close the door to no avail.
"The lift door got jammed and remained in the open position, exposing (the two security guards) to the flame and smoke," said Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin.
When Coroner Bay asked him why it was stuck, the IO replied: "At this point, I haven't investigated why the (door) jammed."
The case has been adjourned to July 16.
The lift door got jammed and remained in the open position, exposing (the two security guards) to the flame and smoke.
- Senior Investigation Officer Staff Sergeant Ahmad Salihin Mashadi on how the security guards were exposed to the fire