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Widow of technican killed by LRT sued SMRT for negligence in 2010

The track incident that led to the deaths of the two young SMRT trainees - Nasrulhudin Najumudin and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari - was tragic, avoidable and certainly not unprecedented. In fact, just 6 years back, SMRT Technician Mr Chia Teck Heng was killed under similar circumstances.

In the morning of 27 October 2010, Mr Chia Teck Heng, a technician who had been with SMRT for 11 years, was deployed to check on a power trip which affected the tracks at Pheonix LRT Station when he was hit by an oncoming train. Mr Chia was not on the tracks, but on the designated walkway which was meant to be safe, during the time of the incident.

The following is an article from the Straits Times that covered the incident.

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Unlike the incident at Pasir Ris, Mr Chia was not pronounced dead on the scene of the accident. The accident caused him to suffer serve injuries to the head and legs. The injuries to one of his legs were so severe that it had to be amputated. He was attended to in a surgical Intensive Care Unit in NUH for 12 days, before he succumbed to his injuries.

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Mr Chia was married to Mdm Janet Moi Fong Sin and he had 2 daughters who were aged 17 and 16 at the time of his death.

"My eldest daughter was under tremendous stress during that time due to the death of her father and a broken relationship with her boyfriend. She couldn't manage the emotional turmoil and.. and wanted.. to commit suicide. She cut her wrist.. and threatened to jump off the building. At the time I couldn't find anyone to help me, so I told my second daughter to just call the police.and ask them to arrest her. I really didn't know what to do. I felt a tremendous burden.. my heart was heavy." - Madam Ong, Widow

"During that time when my father passed away, my mum felt very lonely and upset as she had no relatives in Singapore. She felt very lonely and upset. It was all too shocking and sudden. She couldn't take it. She didn't eat, didn't sleep and cried all the time, Things at home were not good as my dad was the sole breadwinner. She was worried for us but at the same time she couldn't take care of herself." - Cheryl Chia, Eldest Daughter of Mr Chia

As evidenced by the quotes above, the death of Mr Chia, the sole breadwinner of the family, gravely impacted the physical, emotional and mental health of his widowed wife and his 2 daughters. The quotes were sourced from this interview featuring Cheryl and Mdm Ong.

On 12 September 2012, almost 2 years after the incident, it was reported in the Straits Times that Mdm Ong was suing SMRT for negligence in causing the death of her Husband. The outcome of the case could not be found in public domains.

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What is of utmost interest, is the fact that SMRT contested the claim and wanted to highlight "to what extent, if any, Mr Chia contributed to any negligence." Prima facie, this is different from the incident in Pasir Ris where, in a mere matter of days following the incident, SMRT admitted to lapses in safety procedures and readily accept responsibility for the incident.

"We take responsibility and apologise for the tragic accident," - SMRT Spokesperson

Would SMRT's acknowledgement of safety breaches give a higher standing to the families of the deceased, should they decide to sue for negligence? As of now, it is not known whether the families of the deceased have any intentions of taking matters to court. The investigations into the incident have yet to be concluded too.

In an effort to provide financial support for the families of the two deceased, two campaigns were kick-started, One is an internal donation drive for SMRT staff to contribute to the families of the two men killed. The other is a public fundraising campaign on Giveasia which has raised more than $46,000 for the two families at the time of writing.

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