Singapore

Plumber fined $4,500 after firing signal flare into hawker centre

A plumber who set off a flare sparking a "huge ball of fire" and a 30-hour police operation involving 65 officers was fined $4,500 yesterday.

Aw Chong Loong, 50, pleaded guilty to committing an act so negligent as to likely cause hurt when he set off the parachute signal flare while it was pointed towards a hawker centre on Sept 26 at Block 226C, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang said stallholder Tan Yong Joo was seated in front of his fruit stall at the nearby hawker centre at about 4.30pm that day when he heard a boom.

He turned to his stall and saw a "ball of fire about the height of (his) knee".

Mr Tan immediately used a metal rod to get it out, and it wound up under a table in the hawker centre.

A passer-by put out the fire. No one was hurt.

The police were called.

During the 30-hour operation, the police scoured 23 blocks nearby to find the cause of the fire.

Aw, who operates out of his family's medical hall, told police officers he did not see anything, but closed-circuit television footage and police checks identified him as a possible suspect.

He came clean the next day.

He had been clearing the store at the back of the medical hall that afternoon when he saw a cylindrical object covered with dust on a shelf.

Aw took it outside to have a closer look.

Without his glasses, he did not read what was written on it and eventually set it off.

Aw, who was unrepresented, could have been jailed for up to one year and/or fined up to $5,000. - ELENA CHONG

COURT & CRIME