Worker electrocuted to death while stealing live cables: Coroner

Police National Service Department at 170 Still Road. (PHOTO: Google Street View)
Police National Service Department at 170 Still Road. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE — A foreign worker tasked to bring tools to his co-workers to carry out dismantling works at the former Police National Service Department (PNSD) decided to illegally remove electrical cables to sell.

Murugan Kothalam, 27, who was not a trained electrician, was instead electrocuted while in the process of cutting a live cable.

He was conveyed to Changi General Hospital but was pronounced dead there at 2.45pm on 15 October last year.

Kothalam’s death was pronounced to be a misadventure by Coroner Adam Nakhoda in findings made available on Friday (6 August).

The Indian national possibly colluded with other co-workers to steal and sell electrical cables when the opportunity arose.

Power supply was due to be cut off

He was employed as a driver by ST Integrated Engineering. His co-worker Ezilarasan Nagarajan was an electrician in the same company, while two others who were also present at the scene, Balasubramaniyam Nivas and Radhakrishnan Elavarasan, were electrical technicians employed by Alltech Systems.

Nivas and Elavarasan were tasked to dismantle and remove the hose reel, remove the dismantled distribution board and projector stands at the PNSD premises at 170 Still Road, which was vacant at the time. The premises were due to be handed over to the Singapore Land Authority and the power supply was to be cut off by Singapore Power on 16 October last year, to facilitate the dismantling of live electrical cables by the contractor. The live electrical cables work were meant to be carried out after the premises were handed over on 16 October.

Kothalam had been tasked to drive the vehicle which would deliver tools to the other workers to help them dismantle the hose reel. None of the four were tasked to remove electrical wires.

Whenever the contractors were deployed on site, they were required to report to security and PNSD would deploy escorts to ferry them around.

Kothalam, his co-worker Nagarajan, Nivas, and Elavarasan, were cleared to enter the premises. However, no escort was provided to them on 15 October last year, when they arrived for the works. The electricity supply had not been cut off yet.

Nivas and Elavarasan arrived at about 10.30am. Both claimed that they were not instructed to wait for an escort after changing their passes.

Nivas had allegedly intended to steal and sell electrical cables from the PNSD premises. He allegedly shared his plan with Elavarasan, who assisted him in cutting and pulling loose cables above the ceiling space of the main building.

When Kothalam and Nagarajan arrived, they passed tools to the other pair. Kothalam asked Nivas for a wire cutter.

Kothalam, who also intended to steal and sell cables, headed to the Annex building. He intended to share the profits with the other three workers.

At the building, Kothalam used a ladder to access the space above the false ceiling. Then, he used a wire cutter to cut the cables above. Nagarajan assisted Kothalam by pulling the loose cables from the ceiling. Kothalam was later left to his own devices.

At about 1pm, while Nivas was in another room, he heard the sound of a ladder shaking. He went to investigate the noise and saw Kothalam standing on the ladder with his upper body was above ceiling panels. Kothalam’s right hand was holding on to the wire cutter, which was in contact with the wire trunking.

Nivas saw that Kothalam was not moving even as the ladder continued to shake. Suspecting that Kothalam was being electrocuted, Nivas kicked the ladder, causing Kothalam to fall to the ground.

Nivas called to the other two workers for help and they took turns to administer CPR on Kothalam. Elavarasan informed the security officer of the incident and asked him to call the ambulance.

Family was well in India

Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedics arrived and Kothalam was conveyed to the hospital. He was unconscious upon arrival with a 2cm puncture wound over his left index finger and burnt blisters over the base of his right index finger. No other injuries were noted.

Resuscitation was performed, but aborted at 2.22pm due to a lack of response. He was pronounced dead at 2.45pm.

His cause of death was certified to be due to electrocution.

Kothalam’s brother-in-law told the case’s investigation officer that the family was doing well financially and had no financial issues in India.

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