Man burned after falling into temple's burning area

Man burned after falling into temple's burning area

A thoughtful visit to his late grandparents' niche turned into an agonising experience for Mr Patrick Low.

The 33-year-old debt collector tripped and fell into the fire while burning offerings at the San Qing Gong temple at Bedok North Avenue 4 on April 5.

He was taken to Singapore General Hospital.

The New Paper understands that he suffered first- and second-degree burns.

His wife, Mrs Anita Low, 32, could only watch in horror as the incident unfolded in front of her.

"I saw his legs and I saw fire. I panicked and at that moment, I didn't know what to do," she told The New Paper during an interview with the couple last evening.

They had visited the temple for the Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day), when families pay respects to their ancestors.

Mrs Low said: "A man who was there rushed towards us and helped me pick my husband up and drag him away from the fire."

The couple were burning offerings at the rear of the temple, away from the usual spot at the front.

They said temple staff members had told them to go to another designated area at the back to burn their offerings when the queue at the front got too long.

EXTREMELY HOT

Mr Low, whose hands and legs below the knee were burned, said: "We co-operated with the staff but the moment we walked into the rear, I told my wife to stand at the farthest end because it was extremely hot.

"There was no barrier between the few of us and the fire."

Mrs Low added that she "felt the intense heat the moment she walked in" and described it as "far worse than a sauna".

Then, Mr Low fell over a metal frame on the ground.

"I was in the motion of throwing our offerings into the fire when I tripped," he said.

When he stepped into the fire, the heat started to melt his rubber slippers.

"I clenched my hands into a fist, pressed them on the hot ash to push myself off my slippers and out of the fire.

"But I couldn't move my feet. I think the melted rubber had stuck to the soles of my feet." Mr Low said he had "no choice but to use the weight of my upper body to rip my feet off the slippers".

He said no one from the temple had visited him in hospital to check on how he was doing.

TNP could not reach the temple for comment yesterday, but a staff member told evening Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao that it was reviewing its safety measures. (See report above.)

Mr Low is in a wheelchair as he is still unable to walk.

Mrs Low said: "I have to help him with basic things, like eating and taking a shower. It's just heartbreaking to see your husband suffering in pain like this."

Temple to improve system

The San Qing Gong temple will review its system of burning offerings in the wake of Mr Patrick Low's accident, staff member Wang De Shun, 60, told Lianhe Wanbao.

Confirming the incident, he said that "such incidents are extremely rare", but the temple will try to "adopt appropriate measures to improve its system".

Mr Wang said the temple is willing to bear Mr Low's "medical expenses and, if he demands, compensation" as it is covered by insurance for such incidents. He said that the incident was due to the "difficulty in controlling burning joss paper".

He added: "The temple will try switching to environment-friendly pots to minimise the occurrence of such incidents."


This article was first published on April 18, 2015.
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