Church lift accident: Two men fined for negligence

Church lift accident: Two men fined for negligence
Parish priest Tan Kong Eng (left) was fined $4,500, while Seow Tiong Bin (Left), who was in the construction industry, was fined $12,500. The judge held that Seow was more accountable for the lapses in repairing the platform lift than a lay person.

SINGAPORE - Two men, one of them a parish priest, were fined yesterday for a lift accident in a church that killed a Filipino maid and seriously injured an elderly parishioner.

The two men received fines totalling $17,000 for the accident in 2012 at the Church of St Michael.

But District Judge Victor Yeo imposed the heavier fine of $12,500 on Seow Tiong Bin, 60, a designer and consultant of Access Safety Technology, while Tan Kong Eng, better known as Father Peter Tan, was fined $4,500.

Judge Yeo said he held Seow, who was in the construction industry, more accountable for the lapses in repairing the platform lift than a lay person, who may have relied on his expertise.

To make matters worse, the judge noted that neither Seow nor his company was qualified to modify the lift, which was meant for the disabled and elderly.

Access, which builds, designs and overhauls gondolas, is not a lift contractor. Still, the church's finance company, which Tan headed, engaged Access to replace the lift's motor between September 2009 and March 2010.

In the course of doing the major repair work, Seow did a negligent act of hiring an unlicensed electrician to rewire the lift and safety interlocks so that the lift could continue to be used.

On May 16, 2012, Ms Clarita Cerraon Abanes, who was working for another family, went to help Madam Rose Tay, then 82, get into the lift to attend mass on the second floor. But while they were in the lift shaft, the lift car descended on them.

The 45-year-old maid died eight days later. Madam Tay's spine was fractured and she can no longer walk without help.

The accident unveiled a string of negligent acts.

Before Access was engaged, the lift was installed by another company - Aspire Elevator Company - also not a lift contractor, Deputy Public Prosecutor Hui Choon Kuen told the court.

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