Deadly explosion at Jurong lab caused by faulty valve

Deadly explosion at Jurong lab caused by faulty valve
The aftermath of an explosion at Leeden’s Specialty Gas Centre Quality Control Laboratory in Jurong.
PHOTO: SCDF

It has been slightly over a year since his wife was killed in a laboratory explosion.

Mr Ooi Peng Fung described this period as painful and challenging, as he had to raise his infant daughter as a single parent.

"I hope the authorities will take action to prevent further accidents from happening."
- Mr Ooi Peng Fung (above), whose wife, Madam Krysten Lim Siaw Chian, was killed in the blastPhoto: The Straits Times

His wife, Leeden National Oxygen chemist Krysten Lim Siaw Chian, 30, was working at Leeden's Specialty Gas Centre Quality Control Laboratory in Jurong on Oct 12 last year when the blast happened.

Her charred remains were found on six occasions over a two-month period, the coroner's inquiry heard earlier this year.

Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay said in his findings that the regulatory valve attached to the cylinder Madam Lim was using - which contained a mix of methane, nitrogen and oxygen - was faulty and welded unevenly.

This could have caused a leak. Heat, caused by friction, could have ignited the escaping gas mixture.

From there, a flashback, where the flames travelled from the ignition point back into the gas cylinder, could have occurred, and rapid overpressure caused it to explode.

The explosion took place instantaneously as soon as the leak happened, meaning the gas detectors, which were found to be working, had no time to go off, testified Ministry of Manpower (MOM) investigation officer Mohamed Haniffa Ibrahim.

Madam Lim was standing near the epicentre of the explosion, which led to subsequent explosions, testified Singapore Civil Defence Force investigation officer Basir Mohamed Yusof.

The cause of her death was blast injuries, said the state coroner in his findings.

He ruled out foul play and said this was a tragic industrial misadventure.

He added this case underscored the importance of the catastrophic consequences that can happen when companies are not mindful when using modified equipment.

ADVISORY

He also noted that MOM has issued an advisory to these companies.

Madam Lim, who received Singapore citizenship just a month before she died, is survived by her husband and her daughter, who is now 1½ years old.

Mr Ooi, 32, who was present at yesterday's inquiry, told reporters after the hearing that his mother and family members were helping to care for his daughter.

He also thanked the authorities and investigators for uncovering the cause of the accident.

"I hope the authorities will take action to prevent further accidents from happening," he said.

Leeden National Oxygen's chief executive officer Steven Tham told The New Paper he has no comment on the findings but would discuss this further with the board of directors.

rloh@sph.com.sg

harizbah@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 31, 2016.
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