One month after fatal lift accident, son of deceased says: 'I just want some answers'
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said yesterday that tighter regulations for lifts are set to kick in as early as next month, but it is scant comfort for family who lost dad in lift mishap
One month ago, his 77-year-old father died in an accident after a lift malfunctioned at his block.
Mr Lim Keng Swee, 45, the youngest son, is still looking for closure over his father's death, which happened just four days shy of his 78th birthday.
Mr Lim said he has been frustrated that there has been no answer so far as to why the lift malfunctioned that day.
His father, Mr Lim Hang Chiang, had toppled out of his mobility scooter as he reversed, suffering fatal head injuries on May 16.
The elder Mr Lim had been trying to get out of the lift at Block 247, Pasir Ris Street 21, but the lift was 15cm higher than the floor, so the scooter toppled over..
A frustrated Mr Lim said that he was told at his father's wake that the authorities would give him a report about the case by the end of May, but he has yet to receive it.
"I just want some answers, why are they taking so long, and why don't we have displays of when the lifts are last serviced? It just makes me wonder."
Mr Lim, who works in the construction industry, said when he was interviewed during the investigation, he asked the investigators about the frequency of lift maintenance and the person-in-charge of overseeing lift maintenance.
Separately, he has wondered whether the lift uses original parts or third-party parts.
The answer to one of his questions - regarding the person in charge of overseeing lift maintenance - will be displayed in all lifts under BCA's new Permit-to-Operate System, which was introduced yesterday and may be implemented as early as next month.
This requires all owners to display the permit in the lift, indicating the lift contractor responsible for maintenance and the name of the Authorised Examiner (AE) who inspected and certified the lift.
Mr Lim also wants to know the criteria that Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council uses to ensure that the lift is properly maintained.
Under BCA's new measures, outcome-based maintenance will provide more specific criteria and checklists for lift maintenance works. (See report below.)
In the meantime, his family has been mourning the loss of the elder Mr Lim, who was in hospital on the day of his family's planned birthday celebration for him.
Things have not been the same at home, said his son. "I just feel this emptiness in my heart. I am still trying to cope with the loss of my father."
His mother, Madam Kwek Sar Moi, 77, chose to move out from the bedroom that she has shared with her husband to another room in the flat, because she finds staying in the room a painful reminder.
Granddaughter Angelina Lim, six, still asks for her grandfather, saying: "Ah gong go where?".
Mr Lim said his family, comprising older brother Lim Keng Meng, 51, and older sister Lim Lee Meng, 50, as well as his widowed mother, has not been the same since the incident.
He said: "My mother looks okay on the surface, but I don't really think that she's okay. Her husband is gone."
Why are they taking so long, and why don't we have displays of when the lifts are last serviced? It just makes me wonder.
- Mr Lim Keng Swee, whose father, Mr Lim Hang Chiang, died in a lift mishap last month.
Lift experts give their opinion
"It is unusual. An overspeed device in the lift will sense that the lift has oversped and trip the lift. So the lift should not be going up and down again and the lift should stop. But in this case the lift continued to shoot up and down."
- Mr Alfred Lee, a manager at Hitachi Elevator Asia, on the recent incident at Block 150, Petir Road
"Even with careful maintenance, the spare parts of older lifts may become obsolete. The maintenance company may have difficulty getting these spare parts."
- Mr Sugumaran N Pillai, the president of the Singapore Lift & Escalator Contractors & Manufacturers Association (SLECMA), who has been working in this industry for almost 42 years
"If you just put a hotline number, people may not want to call in due to the hassle. But a WhatsApp message chat (run by the Town Council) would be more convenient for users to submit photos and inform about the faulty lift."
- A suggestion from a lift engineer with eight years' experience, who wanted to be known only as Mr Manoj
Compilation of major lift accidents
WHEN: June 11, 2016
WHERE: 15th level of Block 299A, Compassvale Street
AGE OF LIFT: About 15 years
BRAND OF LIFT: LG
LIFT MAINTAINED BY: Sigma
WHAT HAPPENED: Mr Tan Joo Jin, 45, entered the lift on the 15th level. Later, five others entered the lift on the eighth floor. The lift then suddenly jerked and stopped between levels three and four for a few seconds. It suddenly shot downwards and stopped between levels 2 and 3 before landing hard on the ground floor.
LIFT LAST MAINTAINED: A spokesman for the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council said due to investigations it will not reveal when the lift was last maintained. It however said that it last sent a lift engineer and contractor to test the lift last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, after reports were first made by residents last Friday regarding the faulty lift.
On Monday morning, they tested the lift again and experienced a jerk. The lift stopped for a while and continued to move again.
The Town Council is now trouble-shooting and trying to trace and fix the fault. They are also investigating all other lifts with similar feedback from residents as a precautionary measure.
WHEN: May 16, 2016
WHERE: Block 247, Pasir Ris Street 21
AGE OF LIFT: About 24 yearsBRAND OF LIFT: Fujitec
LIFT MAINTAINED BY: Fujitec
LIFT LAST MAINTAINED: Essential Maintenance Service Unit indicates servicing period as May 15 to June 20 but it is not clear if it has been inspected. W
HAT HAPPENED: Mr Lim Hang Chiang, 77, died after he fell from his mobility scooter and hit his head while reversing out of the lift exiting the lift backwards.
There was a 15cm height difference between the lift and the floor, which caused his scooter to topple.
Mr Lim Keng Swee, 45, son of the deceased Mr Lim Hang Chiang told TNP: "It has been about a month since my father died.
"They said they'll investigate the reason behind the lift malfunction but they have not got back to me."
Expert: New measures will improve safety
Dr John Keung, Building and Construction Authority (BCA) chief executive officer, said BCA takes a serious view of lift safety.
"We have been engaging the industry and reviewing the lift regulations over the past year, and are ready to make these changes. We will continue to update and implement new measures to enhance lift safety in the short and longer term," he said.
Mr Ng Wee Keong, the head of Operations and Technical Services Division of Mitsubishi Elevator (Singapore), said the new measures by the BCA "will improve lift safety for the whole industry and provide better safety to users".
Mr Ng said the current inspection measures are outcome-based, but the new measures help to make the requirements even more specific. He said a potential hurdle of the Permit-to-Operate System is the amount of paperwork and manpower needed to install the permits and the resources needed for the audit checks.
He added that the reintroduction of the display of permits in the lifts will help passengers to "feel more safe and assured".