Woman's hand severed by lift doors an accident waiting to happen

Woman's hand severed by lift doors an accident waiting to happen
Madam Khoo Bee Hua’s family arriving at the scene.
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

An elderly woman's hand was severed by lift doors at an HDB block in Tah Ching Road after she returned from walking her dog.

"It was an accident waiting to happen," said Ms Claire Seow, one of the woman's neighbours at Block 322.

She said that both lifts at the block in Jurong have been giving problems for at least six months.

The victim, believed to be Madam Khoo Bee Hua, who is in her 80s, had just walked her dog - a daily routine - at 7am yesterday.

When she entered the lift, Madam Khoo stuck her left hand out in between the doors while waiting for her dog to enter the lift.

Residents at the block, who heard from other neighbours, said the lift doors then closed.

The lift moved up, severing her hand in the process.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said that it was alerted at 7.27am.

It found the elderly woman stuck inside the lift on the ground level with her severed left hand stuck between the lift doors.

One of the residents, who wanted to be known as Madam Selvi, said: "She was crying inside. It was clear that she was in so much pain.

"And her dog just remained outside as if he was trying to protect her."

SCDF used rescue tools to prise open the doors to release the woman who was then taken to National University Hospital (NUH).

The New Paper understands that paramedics retrieved the severed hand, put it in ice and took it to NUH together with the woman.

It is believed that Madam Khoo has undergone surgery to reattach the hand.

A spokesman for NUH declined comment, citing patient confidentiality.

AFRAID

Residents told TNP that problems have persisted at both lifts.

Ms Seow, who said she has made at least three reports to the Jurong Town Council in the last six months, said: "Sometimes, the 'door open' button in the lift doesn't work and I am always afraid my son would get caught between the doors."

"That is why I never let him get into the lift alone. I would always hold his hand and we enter the lift together," added the 36-year-old.

She also recalled times when the lift would be stuck between two storeys for at least 30 seconds.

"I am always afraid that something bad would happen when I am in it with my kids."

Another resident, who did not want to be named, also recalled problems with the lifts.

She said: "The doors always get stuck. Sometimes, they do not even close properly."

Mr Ho Thian Poh, the general manager of the Jurong Town Council, said: "The lift was last serviced on Oct 1 based on the monthly schedule and it was certified (to be) in good working condition."

He also pointed out that the lift is equipped with adequate safety devices, including safety edge on the lift car door, a stream of photo ray sensors near the base of the lift car door and a safety gear switch at both the lift car door and the lift landing car door.

"All these safety devices prevent the lift landing door and the lift car door from closing when they sense movement or when either of the doors is not properly closed," said Mr Ho.

A spokesman for the lift operator at the block, Sigma Elevator Singapore, said in a statement to TNP: "We are conducting checks on the mechanical device and the safety mechanisms of the lift doors to determine if they were functioning properly."

He added that maintenance checks are conducted monthly.

Lift engineer Praba Haram, 28, of lift company Meyers Engineering, said: "The fact that the doors closed despite her hand being placed between the doors indicates there was something wrong with the sensors."

He added that such accidents are rare - usually it is just fingers that get stuck between the doors.

Mr Praba said: "Sometimes, sensors - even the good ones - aren't able to detect fingers and they get stuck."

Meanwhile, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has issued a notice to the town council to suspend the use of the affected lift while investigations are ongoing.

In a statement, BCA said that Jurong Town Council will be "required to appoint an authorised examiner (AE) to conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the incident".

"The appointed AE is also required to propose repairs to the lift, if necessary, and engage a registered lift contractor to carry out the recommended repair works."

BCA has also told Jurong Town Council to immediately appoint an AE to inspect the other lift in the block to confirm that it is safe to use.

HAND CAN BE REATTACHED BUT RISKY

There is a chance that Madam Khoo Bee Hua's severed left hand can be reattached, said a doctor.

But Dr Tan Ter Chyan, specialist hand surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said it is a high-risk procedure, especially for someone in her 80s. And the recovery process is long and complicated.

Dr Tan explained that a patient's age plays a part in the outcome of the surgery and the recovery process.

"The surgery is long, and there is a possibility of high blood loss, which can put the patient's life at stake," he said.

"Therefore, 80-year-olds are considered high-risk for mortality in emergency major limb reattachment operations."

But Dr Tan added that "there are some who do reasonably well".

An operation like this typically takes three to 10 hours.

"The post-operation care is also complicated with blood loss, and other organs are also affected due to the rapid change of blood volume at the time of injury and during surgery.

"Furthermore, care at the intensive care unit can be complicated."

Dr Tan pointed out that there will be significant loss of function even in the best and fastest reattachments.

"The shortening of the bones, muscle damage and tendon loss are some of the issues that will affect the return of function," he said.


This article was first published on October 10, 2015.
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