SMRT engineer jailed over train accident that killed to two trainees

Former SMRT engineer failed to effect 'last line of defence' after leading team onto tracks, leading to deaths of two trainees in 2016

Two SMRT trainees died because of a failure to impose safety protocols that would have prevented trains from entering the work site where a track inspection was being carried out.

But former SMRT engineer Lim Say Heng's failure to effect a "last line of defence" known as the 0/0 Automatic Train Protection speed code was the most direct cause of death, said District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt.

For his role in the March 2016 rail accident, Lim, 48, was sentenced to four weeks' jail yesterday after he pleaded guilty to causing death by negligence.

The accident, the train operator's worst in history, resulted in the deaths of Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24.

During sentencing, Judge Chay said: "There is no denying that (Lim) did not impose or give the instruction for the protocol."

Asking for a sentence of at least four weeks' jail, the prosecution said that a fine, even a high one, would be insufficient given that it was "fully" within Lim's "powers to ensure a safe inspection".

Judge Chay agreed that a jail term should be imposed.

In his submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala said the consequences of Lim's failure to ensure that the particular safety code was imposed set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the fatal accident.

When imposed on a track circuit, the code would have ensured that a train comes to a stop before approaching the area.

The court heard that on March 22, 2016, a fault was detected along the track between Pasir Ris and Tampines MRT stations on the East-West Line at around 6.30am.

The team of 15, led by Lim, was deployed at around 11am.

Instead of boarding a designated train that would take them to the work site, they walked on a walkway parallel to the track even while the safety protocol had not yet been implemented.

This was among the various failures by different parties to comply with an approved set of safety operating procedures known as "Unit 3C OP" that governs track access during traffic hours.

Lim managed to avoid the oncoming train, but the two trainees behind him were unable to react in time and were hit by it.

Lim was sacked six months after the incident, and now works as a technician.

In her mitigation, defence counsel Lee May Ling said Lim was not solely responsible for the implementation of safety protocols that resulted in the fatalities and his overall culpability was low.

"Within SMRT, there was an environment where the Documented Safety Protocols were not, and could not be, adhered to," she said.

The defence sought a $10,000 fine.

In October last year, former director of control operations Teo Wee Kiat, 41, was fined $55,000 for failing to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of SMRT employees.

The rail operator was given a record fine of $400,000 in February last year over the same breach.

The families of the trainees declined to comment when contacted by The Straits Times.