Trapped in tank for 30 minutes

SINGAPORE- He came to Singapore from China to earn more money for his family and ended up sacrificing his life in a brave attempt to save a friend.

The tragedy occurred after a freak accident in a leather-dyeing factory on Tai Seng Avenue in Ubi on Dec 26.

When Mr Zhai Hailei's colleague, whom he regarded as a close friend, fell into a 3m-deep tank containing dyeing chemicals, he did not think twice before jumping in.

But the 26-year-old's valiant attempt was in vain. He, too, got stuck inside the tank.

The Chinese nationals died of organ failure in hospital on Saturday, nine days after the accident, the Chinese evening dailies reported yesterday.

They were trapped in the tank of pungent chemicals for about half an hour before they were pulled out by colleagues and taken to Changi General Hospital.

By then, they were unconscious, Lianhe Wanbao quoted a police spokesman as saying.

Mr Zhai would have celebrated his sixth wedding anniversary this Wednesday.

His wife, Madam Wang Junxing, who flew here from China on New Year's Day, was so distraught she wept uncontrollably at the mortuary yesterday.

In between sobs, she stamped her feet and lamented that her husband had died such a wrongful death.

SOLE BREADWINNER

Madam Wang, 27, told Shin Min Daily News that Mr Zhai was the sole breadwinner and had come here for a better-paying job last October as their five-year-old daughter would be starting school next year.

They have another daughter who is two years old.

The Hunan native, who used to earn only 1,000 yuan (S$200) back home as a machine operator, would send home $1,000 from his monthly salary of $1,300 here.

Madam Wang said: "Our wedding anniversary falls on Wednesday. I would have anticipated a phone call from him, but now I will never hear his voice again."

The factory has since been ordered to close for investigations.

Mr Zhai's colleague, who was known only as Mr Yang, 37, had gone to retrieve a basket from the tank. When he did not return, Mr Zhai and another colleague were sent to look for him.

When they realised Mr Yang was inside the tank, Mr Zhai went in to try to rescue him. The reports did not say what happened to the other colleague.

Mr Zhai's brother-in-law, Mr Wang Shouhui, 26, said: "I believe he had swallowed the dye chemicals. When I saw him, his lips and ears had turned dark and were infected."

Mr Wang said that they were keeping the bad news from Mr Zhai's parents for the time being.

"Mr Zhai is their only son and is the sole breadwinner. We are afraid this may be too big a blow for them," he said.

Lianhe Wanbao quoted a family physician as saying that the source of the infection could be either from the tank or fluid accumulated in their lungs or respiratory pipes.

Mr Yang's relatives declined to be interviewed.


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