One year ago, SMRT trainees Nasrulhudin Najumudin and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari died in Singapore's worst rail accident when a train hit them shortly after they stepped onto the rail tracks. Seow Bei Yi speaks to their families and friends on how they are coping.
Mum still gets emotional thinking about her son, and prays for him every day
Madam Norizan Ismail still remembers the exact question from her husband that sparked her fears that their son Nasrulhudin Najumudin may have been involved in a train accident near the Pasir Ris MRT station.
"Did Nasrul contact you?" her husband Najumudin Mohd Sahabudin, a technical officer who works in SMRT, asked on the phone.
He was then managing the crowd after train services were suspended following the accident on March 22 last year, and rang home after hearing that the victims were from their son's department.
When Madam Norizan, 55, later received confirmation that her 26-year-old son was one of the two fatalities, she broke down: "I was speechless. I felt my entire body shaking... I just cried."
To this day, she gets emotional thinking about her son, who died along with Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, in the accident.
Not long after she got home that day, SMRT's chief executive and her son's manager arrived to explain what had happened, she said.
"They supported us," she added simply of the company.
She said SMRT provided her family and Mr Asyraf's family with cars for them to visit the graves in the weeks following the accident. The pair were buried side by side.
Both families held prayers last week to mark the anniversary of the two victims' deaths.
Madam Norizan said the most emotional period for her close-knit family in the past year was having to spend their first Hari Raya without Mr Nasrulhudin.
"Before that incident, once or twice a year, we would have a family holiday," she said, reminiscing about their last trip to Malaysia, in January last year. "We always made an effort to spend time together."
Despite the pain, Madam Norizan, who revealed that she prays for her third son every day, appeared forgiving towards the SMRT.
The rail operator was fined $400,000 last month for failing to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of employees who had to access the train tracks during traffic hours.
"When we read about it (the fine), we felt bad," said the customer service supervisor.
"As far as our family is concerned, nobody wanted this to happen. We are not blaming anyone.
"Even the supervisor... He has suffered enough because of this incident. It must have been traumatic for him."
What has happened since the accident
Pasir Ris MRT track accident: One year onParamedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force retrieving the body of one of the two SMRT maintenance staff who were killed in the accident along the train track near Pasir Ris MRT station on March 22 last year.Photo: The Straits Times
The rail operator has implemented additional safeguards for staff working on running tracks during traffic hours, such as switching on a red flashing light with an appropriate sign displayed. It has also introduced more stringent checks for track access during traffic hours.
Each request is reported to management alongside information such as the location, time and duration of access, as well as protection arrangements - for better monitoring and detecting of deviations in practice.
SMRT has also improved the audit process for track access.
Previously, checks were not conducted as track access is an ad-hoc activity, meaning audits can be done only on short notice. Inspectors have since been attached to signal maintenance, to check on compliance for access during traffic hours.
Other measures include a new department - the Track Access Management Office - to plan, coordinate and control track access in non-traffic hours.
On Feb 28, SMRT pleaded guilty to one charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to take measures necessary to ensure the safety and health of its employees in accessing train tracks, and was fined a record $400,000.
MINISTRY OF MANPOWER
The ministry, which did an investigation into the case as well, revealed on Feb 28 that not only did SMRT fail to comply with approved operating procedures on the day of the accident, but non-compliance had been taking place as early as 2002.
It said these deviations were not documented nor properly authorised, which resulted in an "unsafe workplace that eventually led to the death of two of its employees".
SMRT has accepted full responsibility and said it has reviewed safety protocols and procedures.
A coroner's inquiry is expected to be held this year. Two SMRT employees - Mr Teo Wee Kiat, 40, director of control operations, and Mr Lim Say Heng, 47, assistant engineer in charge of the March 22 on-track team - have been charged in relation to the accident.
LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY
The LTA said it has completed its investigations into the incident but cannot comment further as there are still cases before the court.
A spokesman said it will release its findings at "an appropriate juncture".