Singapore

Coroner warns of the danger of leaving children home alone

Coroner highlights case of girl, 3, who fell out of fourth-storey flat & died days later

She did not want to rouse her three-year-old granddaughter from sleep.

So, around 12.20pm on Jan 20, Madam Manisah Subakin decided to leave Nur Syahamah Syahrom home alone in their fourth-storey flat.

She then went out to fetch the little girl's older sister from Rosyth School, which is near their home at Block 542, Serangoon North Avenue 4.

Madam Manisah, 66, returned just 15 minutes later. To her horror, the toddler was lying unconscious near the void deck.

The little girl died 24 days later in hospital.

In an inquiry into her death yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay said Nur Syahamah had fallen more than 10 metres from an ungrilled balcony window to the ground below.

She was in a pink top, pink shorts and had one pink slipper on her right foot while the other one was found nearby, next to a rubbish chute. There was no blood at the scene.

Nur Syahamah was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where it was found that she had fractured her skull and suffered severe traumatic brain injury.

She was transferred on the same day to KK Women's and Children's Hospital where she died of pneumonia on Feb 13.

Coroner Bay found her death to be a tragic misadventure.

He said all the other windows in the flat had grilles.

According to the findings, after seeing her granddaughter lying motionless downstairs, Madam Manisah rushed home and saw a white stool under the balcony window.

It had originally been placed below a wooden bench in the living room.

The little girl, who was 1.03m tall, had most likely moved it to the window by herself, reached a ledge and fallen out.

Coroner Bay said the stool was 28cm high while the ledge was 95cm above the balcony floor.

He added: "She may not have been able to fully understand that her actions put her at a perilous risk of falling from height."

HABIT

Nur Syahamah had four older siblings between seven and 14 years old, and Madam Manisah had taken care of all of them.

Madam Manisah said Nur Syahamah had a habit of standing on her bed and looking out of the window. She liked watching her siblings go to school.

About two hours before the tragedy, the grandmother had opened the balcony window slightly and placed a pillow on a ledge to sun it.

When she left the flat, she locked the main gate, leaving the sleeping Nur Syahamah alone in the unit.

The little girl must have woken up and found that her grandmother was not home.

Coroner Bay said Nur Syahamah had apparently wanted to leave the flat to look for Madam Manisah as she was found with her slippers.

Finding herself locked in, she might have gone to the balcony window which was partially open and fallen out.

He added that this case was similar to the one involving four-year-old Darien Riley Zabiq, who suffered a fatal fall after he was left alone at home with his then-two-year-old sister.

Darien fell nine storeys from his new home in Yishun Ring Road in October last year after he placed a chair in front of a window and pushed it open.

Coroner Bay said: "Nur's sad demise does underscore the essential importance of installing and securing grilles and windows to prevent accidental falls, and also to adopt other sensible measures to render a home fully child-safe.

"Young children are by nature inquisitive and keen to explore their environment.

"The dangers of leaving young children home alone cannot be overstated."

Nur Syahamah's father, Mr Syahrom Mohammad Yunus, 43, was in court yesterday during the inquiry but declines to be interviewed.

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