Probe finds nothing wrong with lift involved in accident

There was nothing wrong with the lift in which an 85-year-old woman lost her left hand.

Describing the Oct 9 tragedy as an "unfortunate lift incident", the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said yesterday that a dog leash which was looped around Madam Khoo Bee Hua's left wrist was simply too narrow for sensors to detect and reopen the doors.

It was citing findings from an investigation report on the incident submitted on Monday.

As the lift went up, the leash could have pulled her hand through a gap in the doors, and the hand was severed before the lift could come to a halt.

Still, the BCA said it accepted a recommendation from the expert who probed the incident to increase public awareness on precautions to take when using lifts, including keeping small and thin objects, such as a dog leash or dangling backpack straps, away from lift doors.

The Jurong Town Council yesterday also revealed its insurer AXA has offered to foot the victim's hospital bill, as well as the expenses for two months of homecare after she is discharged. The lift in question, located at Block 322 Tah Ching Road, is maintained by the town council.

In a statement, the town council said it would continue to provide "the fullest support" for Madam Khoo and her family, to ensure they "have all the help they need to recover following this traumatic incident".

Madam Khoo, who also broke her left leg when she fell inside the lift, has been recovering at Jurong Community Hospital. She is expected to remain there for another 10 weeks.

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

Her 59-year-old son, who estimates the medical bill to come up to about $40,000, said he appreciated the town council's goodwill and the support of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the MP for the Jurong ward where Madam Khoo lives.

But the son, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, is worried about how his mother, a widow who lives alone, will cope after she is discharged. He told The Straits Times: "What happens after two months?"

As for the report findings, he said the scenario provided by the examiner was plausible, but questioned why there was a gap big enough for his mother's hand to go through. He suggested that if the lift complied with standards, perhaps the standards should be made stricter to enhance safety.

After the incident, an authorised examiner analysed evidence such as closed-circuit television footage and a specialist medical report, and interviewed the victim. He also inspected the lift in detail and performed tests and simulations of the accident.

BCA said it also conducted its own independent investigation, and its findings were consistent with the examiner's.

Citing the report yesterday, BCA said: "All the door protective devices were tested and verified to be working according to their specifications... (They) cannot be proven reasonably to have failed to function properly on the day of the incident."

The lift doors are supposed to reopen if sensors detect an obstacle 10mm or wider between them, but were not designed to register thinner objects such as the 2mm-thick leash for Madam Khoo's dog.

The BCA said: "Based on the (examiner's) simulations, it is likely that the pull of the taut leash could have caused a fulcrum action, opening up a small gap at the base of the lift cabin doors."

The leash, said the report, partially pulled Madam Khoo's hand through this gap. It was crushed and severed in the small space between the inner and outer lift doors. The hand widened the gap between the lift doors further, triggering the emergency stop and causing the lift to stall near the third storey. The mangled hand then fell to the bottom of the lift pit.

The BCA said that it plans to boost public awareness on lift safety through measures such as distributing posters to town councils and building owners. These will caution users not to put their hands between the doors and to keep a close eye on their pets, for instance.

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg
oliviaho@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on November 7, 2015.
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