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Chitchat 60-year-old SPG Burnt to Death While HDB's Fire Horse Was Locked and No Running Water!



Woman, 60, dies following Bukit Batok fire, neighbours help put out fire, despite disputes​

The woman was a karung guni who was known to hoard items in and outside her HDB unit.
Winnie Li |
November 15, 2023, 07:50 PM

Neighbours of a 60-year-old woman, who passed away after a fire broke out in her HDB flat in Bukit Batok in 2019, tried to put out the fire despite having had disputes with her, including over her hoarding behaviour.
This was revealed at the coroner's court on Nov. 8, 2023, when the death of the woman, Goh Seow Whay, was also ruled as an "unfortunate misadventure", according to Shin Min Daily News.

Start of disputes​

According to state coroner Adam Nakhoda, Goh was a rag-and-bone woman who used to hoard items within her unit located on the 13th floor of Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21, as well as along the common corridor.
As a result, the Jurong-Clementi Town Council (JCTC) had received multiple complaints from Goh's neighbours since 2017.
Goh also ended up in several disputes with her neighbours, with the police being called in to mediate on some occasions, reported CNA.
Goh's partner had tried to dissuade her from continuing hoarding as well, but Goh did not listen.

The fire in 2019​

On Oct. 31, 2019, Goh and her partner went to sleep at about 10pm while their son followed suit after midnight.

Upon waking up from his sleep by cracking sounds at around 4:23am on Nov. 1, Goh's son noticed the items Goh hoarded in the common corridor were on fire.
After Goh, her partner, and her son realised that escaping through the front door was no longer an option as a result of the raging fire, they decided to try crawling out the kitchen window instead.
While Goh's partner and son managed to land on the ledge outside the kitchen, Goh was left behind as she was unable to climb through the window.

Neighbours attempted to put out fire​

When Goh's neighbours noticed the fire at her flat, they attempted to put out the fire.

However, they found out they were unable to access the fire hose reel inside the cabinets near Goh's unit because the cabinets had been padlocked.
When a resident who lived on the 14th floor managed to pull out a fire hose reel on the 13th floor after breaking the glass of the cabinet at around 4:30am, there was no water supply.
It was later revealed that the cabinets were padlocked three years before the fire by JCTC staff in an effort to prevent vandalism.

There was no water running through the fire hose reel because a technician hired to maintain the equipment had forgotten to switch the pump selector mode from manual mode to automatic mode after completing his system servicing a few weeks earlier.

SCDF put off fire & rescued the trio​

At 4:31am, firefighters from Bukit Batok Fire Station and Jurong Fire Station were alerted to the fire, and the first fire vehicle arrived around 11 minutes later.

However, even though the firefighters managed to pull out the fire hose reel after cutting the lock on the cabinet, no water flowed out.
As a result, SCDF officers had to source water elsewhere, and the fire was eventually put out at 5:15am.
In the meantime, the firefighters also conducted an aerial rescue of Goh's partner and son because "a vast accumulation of items" in the kitchen limited their working space, and the two men were "highly exhausted", said SCDF in a Facebook post.
After Goh was rescued from the kitchen toilet, SCDF conveyed the three individuals to Singapore General Hospital.

Goh received medical treatment for her burn injuries and smoke inhalation until she passed away on Dec. 9, 2019.

Rescue operation delayed by 17 minutes​

According to Nakhoda, the rescue operation was delayed by 17 minutes due to the lack of water supply in the fire hose reels.
However, he made no findings on whether the outcome of the incident would have been different should Goh's neighbours have been able to fight the fire earlier, as that would be speculative, according to CNA.
The technician who was responsible for the lack of water supply and the two officers of JCTC who made the decision to lock the cabinets were held accountable for their actions.

The former was fined S$2,700 in 2022, while the latter was given stern warnings.

Police ruled out foul play​

As for the fire, Nakhoda said it might have been caused by a cigarette butt that might have landed on the hoarded items outside Goh's flat as a result of the strong winds at the time.

While Goh's partner and a few residents on the 13th and 14th floors were smokers, investigations were unable to identify who exactly dropped the cigarette butt that likely caused the fire.

Additionally, after "thorough investigations" revealed no evidence that indicated any neighbours were involved in starting the fire, the Singapore Police Force also ruled out foul play, reported CNA.

Nakhoda offered his condolences to Goh's family members who attended the hearing.
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