Singapore

Woman's death a 'tragic misadventure'

A routine furniture delivery ended in tragedy when the driver of the van stepped in front of her vehicle and was run over and killed.

The State Coroner said that Madam Chong Lee Wan had not fully engaged the van's handbrake on a downhill slope at Pearl Bank Apartments in Pearl Bank Road before stepping out of the vehicle on Feb 11.

Madam Chong, 54, who was involved in the management and operations of Cristar Furniture, her family business, had walked towards the front of the vehicle while her son, Mr Lim Hsien Ern, was delivering an office chair at 10.10am.

During the inquiry yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay said the white Opel Vivaro van, which had the gear in neutral mode, moved forward and ran over Madam Chong when she tried to stop it with her hands.

The coroner, who found her death to be a tragic misadventure, said: "Given this, the brakes were not in a position to effectively stop the van from rolling downwards.

I would, therefore, attribute the inclination of the pick-up and drop-off area as well as the inadequate engagement of the handbrake to be the prime contributing factors for the (accident).

"The actual movement of the van... was likely triggered by the closing of the driver's door, which caused the vehicle to move forward and subsequently run over Madam Chong..."

After Mr Lim returned to where he had left his mother, security guards told him the van had rolled downhill. He then found Madam Chong lying in the middle of the road.

The van was about 50m from where she had parked it.

She was unconscious when an ambulance took her to Singapore General Hospital, but died from multiple injuries about an hour later.

Coroner Bay said that according to senior automotive engineer Tan Jiat Shee, who later examined the van, the handbrake lever was found to be at the first click position during the inspection. In this position, the handbrake was ineffective and the rear wheels could still turn.

Mr Bay said: "At the second click position, the rear wheels could still be turned with force and at the third click position, the rear wheels could not be turned by hand. (Mr Tan) opined that the full application of the handbrake, at six clicks, should be applied when parking the vehicle."

Quoting the Workplace Safety and Health guidelines, Coroner Bay said drivers should park their vehicles at designated parking areas which should be level, firm, well-lit and clearly marked.

He said: "Drivers should ensure their vehicles are properly parked with the brakes engaged, engine turned off, starter keys removed, and load or equipment lowered and secured."

If drivers need to park their vehicles on a slope, they should also engage the gears, if safe to do so, and use wheel chokes, he said.

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