Workers' fatal fall: It's waste water in the tank

SINGAPORE- The two leather factory workers who died after reportedly falling into a tank of chemical dye had actually fallen into a tank of waste water, their employer Nam Heng Leather Dyeing has clarified.

Factory boss Ang Keat Hong told this to Chinese evening papers yesterday.

The accident which claimed the lives of Chinese nationals Yang Zhonghua, 37, and 26-year-old Zhai Hailei, took place on Dec 26 at the factory in Tai Seng Avenue in Ubi.

It is believed that Mr Yang had fallen in while retrieving a basket in the tank. Mr Zhai tried to rescue him, but fell in too. They were found unconscious in the tank about half an hour later and taken to Changi General Hospital, where they died last Saturday after being in a coma for nine days.

It is unclear what kind of waste water was involved, but The Straits Times understands the underground tank was 3m deep, and 2m by 2m wide.

When the Straits Times visited the factory yesterday afternoon, the front shutters were closed and the back doors were locked, but a group of three contractors was there for a meeting with Mr Ang. One of them, who declined to be named, told The Straits Times that Mr Ang had asked them to install "new safety measures" such as a "grating cover for the tank" after the accident.

When approached, Mr Ang, 39, would only say repeatedly: "I'm very tired. I have a lot of things to do. I have to help the workers' families settle their affairs." He told Chinese papers that he paid for the two men's funeral rites, and that he intends to offer financial compensation to their families. He will also be seeking insurance claims on their behalf.

He said losing the two men was like losing two friends, and he had not been sleeping or eating well since the incident. The Ministry of Manpower has ordered the company to cease all work on the premises, and investigations are ongoing.

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