Elderly woman’s cause of death due to smoke inhalation from fire in daughter’s Bukit Panjang flat: State Coroner

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A coroner’s inquiry on Thu (30 May) traced the cause of death of 83-year-old Lim Mang Yin to the inhalation of smoke and fumes from a fire in her daughter’s Bukit Panjang flat in Block 165 Gangsa Road last year.

CNA reported State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam’s finding that the fire was accidentally caused by embers from a joss stick, which was purportedly lit to get rid of the smell of cigarette smoke coming from a neighbour’s home.

Madam Lim, who was wheelchair-bound and had dementia, was likely unable to exit the premises on her own at the time.

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) fire investigator Lieutenant-Colonel Dannies Ang Weitong told CNA that it is likely that the fire had spread to a cardboard box, newspapers and towels nearby, and was fanned by an oscillating standing fan.

Lt-Col Ang, in his submission to the coroner, reminded members of the public to always burn incense paper, candles, joss sticks and other items for prayers in appropriate receptacles such as an incense burner or metal container, in addition to placing such items away from newspapers, furniture, paper, or plastic.

He added that any smouldering embers should be thoroughly put out before residents leave their homes, and that a fire extinguisher should be on standby in case of such emergencies.

Madam Lim’s older daughter was at work at the time of the scene, while her younger daughter left the house to buy lunch at 12pm, an hour after they had smelled cigarette smoke from their neighbour’s house, only to find that the flat was on fire.

SCDF officers arrived at the scene within seven minutes of receiving a police report regarding the incident, and strived to put out the fire for about 20 minutes.

While Madam Lim’s body was virtually unidentifiable due to severe burns over 95 per cent of the body, DNA testing or profiling managed to confirm her identity. She was pronounced dead at 1pm that day.

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