Not enough space to deploy air bag properly: SCDF

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has explained on Facebook why it could not place an air bag directly under where a man was sitting on the ledge of a 12th-floor flat in a rescue attempt more than a week ago.

A three-minute video of the man falling to his death at Block 23 Dover Crescent several metres from the air bag was posted online on Thursday.

In response to a query on its Facebook page, SCDF said yesterday: "At the onset of such an incident, SCDF would typically set up a life pack at the most suitable location to cushion the impact of a fall and, subsequently, DART (Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team) rescuers would rappel to take the person to safety. Unfortunately in this incident, the crew encountered difficulty in deploying the life pack due to ground constraints, primarily arising from the obstruction by trees and shrubs, and the man jumped before the rappelling lines and safety net could be set up."

SCDF added that in such rescue operations, it is "constantly faced with numerous challenges, including the daunting task of attempting to save someone who may not be inclined to be rescued".

SCDF told The Straits Times it was at the scene within five minutes of the call placed to it at about 11am on Jan 14. The bag was deployed in a bigger space, to properly inflate it, but as it was being dragged into the 2m-wide space below the man, he fell.

The 58-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. Police investigations are ongoing.

The Straits Times understands that in such situations, rescuers have to first determine where the subject is likely to land in order to set up the air bag. But the equipment cannot fit into certain spaces, such as a narrow walkway. The air bag, which measures 7.6m by 5.5m and 2.75m in height when inflated, also requires at least four people to move it.

Cleaning supervisor Hossan, 28, who witnessed the incident last week, said: "They tried pushing the air bag into the space but they couldn't do it in time."

After the video was posted online, some netizens questioned why SCDF officers did not put the air bag closer to where the man would likely have landed.

Businessman Ravi K. 41, who lives at Block 23, noted: "Due to the space and layout here, there are limitations (to what the rescuers could have done) and it's not easy. I don't think it's their fault."

Another resident, who knew the man who died, said he lived with his wife and a daughter in her 20s. The man was unemployed. Nobody came to the door of his unit when The Straits Times visited.

On Tuesday, SCDF officers saved a woman perched on a sixth-storey laundry rack. Two of them rappelled down to push her towards the flat's kitchen window, while others pulled her off the rack from inside the flat.

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health:1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre:1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling:1800-3535800

This article was first published on January 23, 2016. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.