Four killed in Geylang fire after deciding to wait for help
Coroner's inquiry into Geylang fire
Instead of fleeing the burning building, they chose to stay in their room and wait for help to arrive.
It was a risky decision that backfired.
By the time firefighters got to the four men in the Lorong 4 Geylang walk-up apartment in the early hours of Dec 6 last year, they were lying motionless on the floor.
One of them had a blanket wrapped around his head in what seemed like a futile bid to block out the smoke.
Three of them were pronounced dead at the scene and one died later in hospital.
Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay pointed out that it was vital that occupants flee a burning building as soon as a fire is spotted. (See report below.)
He ruled out foul play in his findings on the deaths of the four Malaysians - Mr Maslan Musundo, 43, Mr Jubitol Rumanjing, 37, Mr Ramu Kotiah, 50, and Mr Yusoff Masrong, 49.
They shared the room with Mr Maslan's brother, Mr Muslin, 41, and two other Malaysians, Mr Peter Awat, 48, and Mr Sapawi Ahet, 48.
The men, who worked here as cleaners, went to sleep between midnight and 12.40am on Dec 5.
At about 1.10am, Mr Ramu realised there was a fire and shouted to his roommates to wake up.
Mr Awat opened the door and saw thick black smoke and a small fire outside.
He heard Mr Maslan telling everyone not to go out or they would get burned, Mr Bay said.
But Mr Awat and Mr Sapawi quickly fled the walk-up apartment via the main entrance and got out unscathed.
A few minutes later, they saw Mr Muslin run out with burns on his skin, indicating how large the fire had grown.
At least 10 other foreign nationals, including Bangladeshis, Chinese and Indians, escaped from the burning apartment.
Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers arrived at the scene five minutes after receiving a call asking for assistance.
After putting out the fire, the SCDF officers found the four men in the windowless room.
Three were lying face up and another was sitting in a corner with a blanket over his head.
The victims were later found to have died from smoke inhalation.
Traces of cyanide from the toxic fumes were found in their bodies. The burns on their bodies were not significant to cause death, Mr Bay said.
The SCDF established that the fire had been accidentally caused by an electrical source, he added.
The SCDF also found that the fluorescent lighting and nearby objects, such as a wooden shoe rack, wooden table and wooden sliding cabinet, had fuelled the fire.
Mr Bay said the victims had paid the ultimate price for their decision to stay and wait out the fire.
He ruled their deaths a tragic misadventure and expressed his condolences to their families.
THE NEW PAPER, JUNE 3
Fire? Get out immediately
Occupants who suspect a fire in the building should evacuate without delay, said State Coroner Marvin Bay.
He said that it is extremely hazardous to remain indoors to wait out the fire. Four Malaysians did this and died in a Geylang walk-up apartment last December.
In an enclosed space, the build-up of toxic fumes can quickly reach lethal levels and overwhelm any person remaining in the premises, Mr Bay said.
"The window of opportunity for escape... can be extremely narrow," he said.
He made a reference to Mr Maslin Musundo, who had lingered for a few moments before fleeing and suffered significant burns while his two roommates who had fled immediately escaped unhurt.
Mr Bay added that premises with a large number of occupants should have passageways that are clear of objects in the event of an emergency.