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Coroner finds no foul play after technician bled to death while trapped in lift shaft for over 4 hours

SINGAPORE — While carrying out repair work on the top of a lift car at the Chan Brothers Building along North Bridge Road, Hossain Mohammad Sahid found himself pinned against the lift’s guide structure when the lift car ascended.

The authorities could not provide effective medical treatment for his injuries, including a 30cm by 10cm gash on his left arm, due to the confined space, which also hindered the Singapore Civil Defense Force’s (SCDF) efforts to extricate the foreign worker.

Hossain, 29, eventually bled to death after being trapped for more than four hours.

On Tuesday (May 10), Coroner Christopher Goh issued his official findings on the Bangladeshi’s death, ruling it to be an unfortunate misadventure.

The coroner also said there was no evidence of foul play, but noted that the accident could have been prevented because all work should have stopped when a faulty “up” button on the lift control box was discovered.

Hossain worked for lift contractor Decor Engineering at the time of his death on Feb 27 last year. He was involved in repairing a lift wall panel in the Chan Brothers Building.

He instructed a colleague, Rafiqul, to enter the lift car to see if the panels were aligned, while he tightened some screws from the top of the lift car.

The lift was brought to the first floor and Hossain accessed the top of the lift car from the second floor.

A worker identified only as Wong, whose job was to control the lift car’s movement, told the coroner’s court that he tested the “up” and “down” buttons on the lift control box. I discovered that the “up” button was faulty.

Wong claimed that Hossain then asked him to control the lift from the lift control room instead, and suggested that they communicate through a WhatsApp call.

In his inquiry findings, Coroner Goh said that the Manpower Ministry has opined that work should not have continued if the “up” button was faulty. This was because there was no direct line of sight between the lift control room and the lift car.

WHAT HAPPENED

Wong also claimed that during the repair works, Hossain said he wanted to pass a tool to Rafiqul who was in the lift car. When this was done, Hossain wanted to resume the repairs.

Wong began telling him what to do with the lift settings on the top of the lift car.

However, Hossain then flipped the switch located on the lift control panel on the top of the lift car to “normal” mode, before Wong could flip the switch to “inspection” mode in the lift control room.

The lift car began moving. Wong then heard a loud scream from the lift shaft, so he changed the lift’s setting to “inspection” and cut the power.

This was at about 11am based on call logs.

Meanwhile, Rafiqul felt the lift car move slightly downwards and heard Hossain screaming “Stop! Stop! Stop”.

Wong went to the third floor to check on Hossain, whose hand was stuck in between the guiderail bracket and the lift car.

Wong then managed to free Rafiqul from inside the lift car before police officers and SCDF officers arrived at the scene.

When the SCDF’s fire rescue team got into the lift shaft, they saw that Hossain’s rib cage, left arm and left leg were trapped by the lift car and parts of the shaft. His arm was also bleeding from a deep cut.

Because the team did not have the correct equipment to extricate Hossain, they activated its disaster and fire rescue team. Hossain was still conscious but was having trouble breathing at this stage.

However, the disaster and fire rescue team’s efforts to get Hossain out were hindered by the confined space of the lift shaft.

When the team activated a medical support team from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, a doctor managed to insert an intravenous drip into Hossain’s right arm and administer some painkillers and medication.

The doctor could not treat Hossain’s arm due to his position.

Coroner Goh noted that “various medical options were considered, including a field amputation” in order to get Hossain out, but the lift shaft’s confined space rendered these impossible as well.

Hossain grew unresponsive around 3.45pm. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was not possible due to his vertical position, and it was unsafe to do any defibrillation due to the metallic material of the lift car and shaft.

He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

SCDF managed to free his body about two hours later. His death of him was certified as haemorrhage due to blunt force trauma to his left arm.

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