Tragic misadventure for 4 who died in Geylang shophouse blaze last Dec

SINGAPORE - The deadly blaze that killed four cleaners at a shophouse in Geylang last December is a stark reminder that it is best to immediately flee the scene of fire or suspected fire once an alarm is sounded, a coroner said on Thursday (Aug 6).

State Coroner Marvin Bay said it is extremely hazardous to remain indoors to "wait out" the fire when one breaks out in a building.

"In a closed space, the build-up of toxic fumes from combustion can quickly reach lethal levels, and overwhelm any person remaining in the premises, well before help can arrive," he said.

Upon suspicion of a fire, all people within should evacuate without any delay, as the window of opportunity for escape can be extremely narrow.

Two survivors emerged unscathed as they had promptly fled the premises.

Another, Mr Muslin Musundo, 41, the younger brother of one of the four men who died, tarried only a few moments more and suffered significant burns as he belatedly negotiated the burning passageway.

The four deceased - Mr Jubitol Rumanjing, 37, Mr Ramu Kotiah, 50, Mr Yusoff Masrong, 49, and Mr Maslan Musundo, 43 - paid the "ultimate price for their decision to stay and 'wait out' the fire", said Coroner Bay.

"This case is a timely reminder, where premises are intended to house a large number of people, of the need to always ensure that passageways of these properties remain uncluttered of combustible materials, and be able to facilitate an expeditious and complete mass evacuation, in the event of any emergency," he said.

He was giving his findings at a joint inquest into the deaths of the four Malaysians at the three-storey house in Geylang Lorong 4 on Dec 6.

Mr Jubitol, Mr Ramu and Mr Yusoff were found lying in a room and declared dead between 2.33am and 2.37am that day.

Mr Maslan was found sitting at the corner of the room with a blanket over his head. He died about half an hour later in hospital.

All died from smoke inhalation.

The source of fire was at the space outside one of the rooms where a lot of styrofoam boxes, electrical cooking appliances, a shoe rack and a multi-extension socket outlet were found.

There was no foul play.

Coroner Bay found the deaths of the four to be the result of a tragic misadventure.

This article was first published on August 6, 2015.
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