Man who died on Fajar LRT tracks drank beer before accident

Wan Ting Koh
A train on the Bukit Panjang LRT Line. Photo: Yahoo News Singapore

A man who met a fatal accident at Fajar LRT station earlier this year had fallen onto the tracks after drinking beer at a coffeeshop downstairs.

Ang Boon Tong, a 43-year-old Malaysian, was run over by two driverless LRT trains, according to an investigation officer who testified at the Coroner’s Inquiry into Ang’s death on Wednesday morning (16 August). Ang was later discovered motionless on the tracks by SMRT staff who informed the police, said Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Lim Jim Kai, citing his investigation report.

Ang succumbed to his multiple injuries including fractures to his skull, ribs, hip, left arm and right lower limb. He was pronounced dead at 2.20am on 24 March, according to the report.

State Coroner Marvin Bay ruled Ang’s death as a case of “truly tragic misadventure”.

Fajar LRT station is one of 14 LRT stations on the Bukit Panjang LRT Line (BPLRT), which serves residential estates in Choa Chua Kang and Bukit Panjang.

No identification was found on Ang at the time of the accident but officers found a sling bag containing an ez-link card and a notebook under a train. Bloodstains were also found on the underside of the train.

Investigations found that on 23 March, Ang had consumed beer with his wife, Lee Yoon Cheng, at the Koufu coffee shop on the ground floor of the LRT station at 10.30pm. Subsequently, several of Ang’s friends arrived and they continued drinking with him while Lee left.

Ang was very drunk but “in a very happy mood” at that time, according to ASP Lim.

The alcohol level in Ang’s blood was 232 milligrammes (mg) per 100 millilitres (ml), or about three times the legal alcohol limit for driving, which is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. Ang drank two bottles of Carlsberg beer and shared another two bottles with a friend.

At around 12.32am, Ang left the coffeeshop and made his way upstairs to the LRT platform alone. CCTV footage showed Ang walking unsteadily on the platform before sitting on the bench.

A two-carriage LRT train arrived shortly and Ang approached it. However, he didn’t manage to board the train as the doors closed before he could enter.

A three-second CCTV footage tendered in court showed Ang attempting to return to the bench but losing his balance and lurching backwards. He fell through the barriers onto the tracks. The height difference between the tracks and the platform is 1.22 metre, ASP Lim told the court.

The platform barriers at the LRT station do not have doors and the gaps where the train doors open can fit two men side by side, ASP Lim added.

Ang remained on the tracks for about three minutes with CCTV footage showing him sitting up and rolling to the left of the tracks.

At around 12.48am, a train pulled into Fajar LRT station where it hit Ang. CCTV footage showed the front carriage jerk upwards as the train entered the platform.

At the time of the incident, an SMRT staff was on board the train and heading back to the terminal station. The staff heard an “unusual sound” but could not pinpoint where it came from.

Another train pulled up 10 minutes later and a second SMRT staff noticed that the carriage jerked upwards. He saw Ang’s body and alerted the operations control centre.

Chia Choon Wah, SMRT’s senior vice president for the Circle Line and BPLRT special projects, also took the stand on Wednesday morning. Chia said that the staff who was on board the first train that hit Ang was off duty.

SMRT currently does not have a system for trains to detect obstacles on the tracks, Chia pointed out. The Land Transport Authority, which owns the assets on the BPLRT, is currently testing a video analytics system, which could detect abnormal activity on train tracks.

When asked what a passenger could do after falling on the tracks, Chia revealed that there is a safe passage between the tracks, which is demarcated by yellow lines. However, this passage has not been publicised so as to discourage passengers from going onto the tracks, Chia added.

There are also steps connecting the tracks and the platform at one end of the platform, Chia said.

The operations control centre staff who was on duty during the accident did not witness Ang falling onto the tracks as she was focused on closing the station, which ceases services after 1am. The centre, located at the Ten Mile Junction LRT station, monitors all 143 cameras in the BPLRT but staff can only access 22 screen monitors at one time.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the hearing, Lee said that she and Ang have two sons, aged 17 and 14, and one daughter, 9. She works at the Koufu branch at Fajar while her husband was a cook at a separate Koufu branch.

Lee, who is also a Malaysian, said that she is now the sole breadwinner for the family, including her husband’s elderly mother.

State Coroner (SC) Marvin Bay noted that Ang had survived the initial fall, as seen by him pulling himself to a seated position.

“However, he was too disorientated or intoxicated to fully appreciate his precarious situation as he remained on track without calling for help or making any overt attempt to extricate himself from his position.”

SC Bay also pointed out that it was useful to raise public awareness of the safety measures that can be taken in the event of a person falling onto the tracks, such as going to the safety zone and the staircase, and using a stop plunger.

But he added, “It is entirely conceivable that a person who falls onto the track may be infirm, inebriated, incapacitated or cognitively impaired, and thus not have the requisite knowledge or ability to seek refuge at the centre of the guide way, or make for the staircase to save himself.”