Lift doors wouldn't close

Deadly fire: The Marina Bay Suites condominium.

They were killed in a fire that broke out at the Marina Bay Suites condominium on Jan 13.

Security officers Sooria Kala Kanaseon, 33, and Sim Lai Huat, 55, had taken a lift to the 65th storey, where the fire was raging.

The continuation of a coroner’s inquiry into their deaths yesterday revealed more factors that could have led to the tragedy.

Did not follow training

Based on their training, the officers were supposed to take the lift to the 63rd storey and then climb the stairs to investigate the fire.

A police senior investigation officer, Staff Sergeant (Sgt) Ahmad Salihin Mashadi, said they had undergone the core modules which trained them to do this.

An investigation by the Ministry of Manpower revealed they had completed mandatory training under the Workplace Skills Qualification System before they were licensed by the Police Licensing and Regulatory Department as security officers.

Lift problems?

Closed-circuit television footage shows that when the guards reached the 65th storey and saw the fire, Mr Sim tried to close the doors of the firemen’s lift.

Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin said the doors would close and open again repeatedly and he found out why after interviewing Schindler Lifts technical director Timothy Lok Wen Chaun.

The doors were installed with light sensors that, when blocked, possibly by the thick black smoke from the fire, would signal the doors to open.

“The thick smoke generated a signal for the doors to open as though someone was passing through,” said Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin.

He also said the fireman’s lift was in the normal operating mode when the officers took it that evening.

In case of an emergency, firemen could switch the lift to fire fighting mode by breaking a glass panel and turning on a switch.

But Madam Sooria Kala and Mr Sim were not supposed to do that.

When in fire fighting mode, pressing and holding down the appropriate door control buttons would close and open the doors.

Staff Sgt Ahmad Salihin said Mr Lok had also indicated other possible causes why the lift doors had malfunctioned.

The door rollers and shoes might have melted and the door panels could have expanded from the high temperature generated by the fire.

But he told State Coroner Marvin Bay that he could not confirm which of these reasons had caused the problem as most of the materials in the area were destroyed by the fire.

False alarms

Records show there were 12 cases of false alarms reported at Marina Bay Suites since Jan 31 last year. In December alone, there were three such cases.

On the night of the tragedy, Madam Sooria Kala told her supervisor, Mr Kuldip Singh , 53, that the likelihood of an actual fire breaking out was low.

She had insisted that it was yet another false alarm before volunteering to investigate, unaware that she was heading to her doom.

The case was adjourned to Aug 11.

This article was first published on July 17, 2014.
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