DPM Tharman assures lift victim's son about probe

People shouldn't have to worry about their safety when taking the lift, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday morning.

He was speaking to reporters at the National University Hospital (NUH) after visiting Madam Khoo Bee Hua, the elderly woman whose hand was severed by a lift door in Jurong last Friday.

Mr Tharman, MP for Jurong Group Representation Constituency, had arrived in Singapore earlier yesterday morning from Peru, where he had been attending International Monetary Fund meetings since last week.

He went to the hospital to visit Madam Khoo soon after touching down.

Madam Khoo, 85, had used her left hand to stop the lift doors from closing to let her dog into Lift B at Block 322 Tah Ching Road, where she lives.

But the lift doors closed, clamping her hand, and the lift started moving up, severing her hand in the process.

Madam Khoo, who lives alone, has been warded in NUH since last week.

She underwent two operations - an unsuccessful attempt to try to reattach her hand and another surgery to close her forearm wound and treat a fracture in her leg.

Said Mr Tharman: "Lifts are something that we depend on every day, several times a day for most people. We don't want people to worry about their safety when taking the lift. So we really have to raise our standards - technical work, maintenance work, and in having a strong system of audit..."

Mr Ho Thian Poh, the general manager of Jurong Town Council, previously told The New Paper that the lift in question was last serviced on Oct 1 based on the monthly schedule and it was certified to be in good working condition.

Mr Tharman said yesterday: "There must have been something wrong with the lift even if maintenance checks were done... so we have to take responsibility. We will wait for the authorised examiner to do an independent report and then make sure, on the basis of the report, that this never happens again."

He added that the report on the cause of the lift accident is expected to be completed in at least two weeks.

Mr Tharman described Madam Khoo and her late husband as "well known in the Jurong community".

He spoke to the elderly woman in her hospital ward and said she was a "remarkably strong person" and that she was "doing very well in the circumstances".

"I had a very long chat with the family and the son, and assured him that we have nothing to hide in investigating the causes of this incident, absolutely nothing to hide," said Mr Tharman.

The Building and Construction Authority has since suspended the use of the lift while investigations are ongoing.

When The New Paper visited the block yesterday, Lift B was still sealed.

Residents of the 21-storey block told TNP that although they were a little fearful whenever they stepped into the other lift, they will continue to take it out of necessity.

A resident on the 20th storey, who wanted to be known only as Madam Wong, 50, a housewife, said: "Of course, we are scared. I told my kids to be more careful and not to rush into lifts that are closing. They must always press the button before going in and not use their hands to keep the door open."

Added Mr Jeff Tan, 55, a lecturer: "No choice, we have to take the remaining lift despite the tragic accident. I hope they can investigate this matter properly."

This article was first published on October 15, 2015.
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