Eatery yet to help burn victim of exploding cooker

Eatery yet to help burn victim of exploding cooker
Ms Linda Er, seated in her home. Her right arm was scalded by the explosion.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

It has been more than three months since Ms Linda Er was badly burned by an exploding hotpot cooker, but the 39-year-old bartender has still not received the compensation she was promised.

On April 4, Ms Er and her colleague were dining at Chong Qing (Original) Old Steamboat in Beach Road when their gas cooker exploded, causing third-degree burns on her face and right arm.

Her colleague and three other customers were also injured.

Ms Er told The Sunday Times: "The eatery staff told me that the owner said he would be responsible for all my medical bills. But I still haven't heard from them."

She went back to the eatery two weeks ago, but the owner was nowhere to be found.

"He came to see me once in the hospital, but he hasn't contacted me since," said Ms Er, who was hospitalised for a week and had to undergo skin grafting.

The mother of a 14-year-old son, who is separated from her husband, said she has spent about $11,000 on medical bills so far.

She still has to return to the hospital every week for check-ups, and her doctor has said that she might need further skin grafting.

"I can't afford to pay all my medical bills. I still have a son to support," said Ms Er, who earns $2,000 a month working at the Lot, Stock and Barrel pub in Seah Street.

She hired a lawyer, who has sent two letters to the director of the eatery, Mr Phee Ser Guan. But there has been no reply.

When The Sunday Times contacted Mr Phee, he acknowledged receiving the lawyer's letters. He said: "We are handing the matter to our insurance company to settle."

Asked if he still intends to compensate Ms Er and the other burn victims, he would only say: "I will ask my lawyer to speak to them."

At his steamboat eatery last week, the restaurant was packed with customers. Electric stoves had replaced the gas cookers.

Although Ms Er returned to work last month, the healing process has been slow and arduous.

"My skin is still raw. Sometimes my whole right arm goes numb," said Ms Er, who is still on painkillers. Her doctor has told her that the wounds would take two to three years to heal completely, she said.

During her two-month medical leave, the former tour guide hardly stepped out of her Serangoon flat to avoid the damage that the sun would do to her wounds.

When she did, Ms Er would conceal her scars with a jacket, cap and face mask. "A taxi driver asked me once if I was being chased by the paparazzi," she recalled. "At first, I was annoyed by all the stares, but eventually I grew to accept it."

While she has eaten steamboat since the accident, Ms Er avoids eateries which use gas cookers.

Still, she is now able to joke about her situation. "My friends asked me why one arm is more badly burnt than the other," she said. "I tell them my left side is a medium-rare steak, and my right is well-done."

This article was first published on July 12, 2015.
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