Irritation turned to shock and sympathy when commuters affected by an MRT disruption yesterday realised there were fatalities involved.
Train services between Tanah Merah and Pasir Ris were suspended for nearly three hours after an accident near Pasir Ris station at around 11.10am killed two SMRT employees.
They were trainees in a group of 15 walking along a 50cm-wide strip beside the train tracks to investigate an alarm. The pair were struck by an oncoming train and pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
The 35 passengers on the train were asked to disembark and walk to Pasir Ris station. Between 10,000 and 15,000 commuters had to make alternative travel arrangements.
Pasir Ris MRT station was temporarily closed after the incident.
While some took to social media initially to lament the delay, the complaints soon turned to condolences.
Ms Mardiana Mahmod, a 23-year-old nurse, was waiting at the platform at around 11.05am when she heard a loud screech and saw people pointing to the train tracks. After 10 minutes, an announcement asked commuters to leave the station as there were "no train services available", she said.
"When they first asked us to leave, we were quite reluctant," she added. But she spotted an SMRT staff member walking back to the platform visibly shaken, and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel arriving, and realised something was wrong.
"When I went down to the concourse, I heard staff talking to one another, and realised that someone had been pronounced dead."
Mr Beez, a 51-year-old guitar technician who goes by only one name, was headed to work at North Bridge Road when he arrived at Pasir Ris station and heard that an accident had happened.
"It impacts everybody - not just the incident today, but any incident or accident," he said. "If it's a safety issue, SMRT should address it."
Some, such as 15-year-old student Aloysius Liow, spoke up online against persistent criticism of SMRT: "These (personnel) sacrificed their lives just to keep the train going... Spare a thought for SMRT and the families of (the) deceased."
SMRT staff at Pasir Ris station directed people to free bus and shuttle services. Service was expected to resume at 12.15pm initially, but recovered at slower speeds only at around 1.55pm. Normal service resumed at about 2.10pm. Commuters arriving at Tanah Merah station were asked to disembark and take shuttle buses to the stations affected by the disruption, between Tanah Merah and Pasir Ris.
Freelance videographer Jeremy Ho, 26, said he was on the escalator going to the train platform at Pasir Ris at around 11.40am when he heard an announcement saying train service had stopped and asking passengers to leave the station.
But hearing of the tragedy later, he said: "It's a very sad day today. But within this unfortunate event, I think SMRT and SCDF handled the situation very well."
This article was first published on March 23, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.