Court hearings have since begun to investigate the events leading up to the Tuas explosion that took place in Feburary.
According to the director of Stars Engrg, the company that runs the premises, workers had raised their concerns regarding the machine on multiple occasions, prior to the explosion.
However, he reportedly disregarded them, and the machine eventually blew up some 6 months after sparks and smoke emitted from it.
On 23 Sep, 3 days into the hearings for the Tuas explosion, the director of Stars Engrg was questioned by an inquiry committee on the events leading up to the incident.
37-year-old Mr Chua Xing Da is the sole director and shareholder of Stars Engrg, the fire protection company which owns the unit where the explosion happened.
The explosion occurred on 24 Feb at an industrial building in Tuas, injuring 10 workers.
Unfortunately, 3 of them passed away from severe burns covering 90% of their bodies.
All 3 casualties were Stars Engrg employees aged between 23 and 29 years old.
During the hearings, the court heard that Stars Engrg purchased a machine via Alibaba last June to help produce fire wraps.
When the machine was used on 8 Aug last year, smoke and some sparks started emitting from one of the heaters, reported The Straits Times (ST).
The machine emitted smoke yet again on 28 Aug and 21 Sep.
On 28 Sep, workers reportedly discovered a leak at the corner of the machine.
They apparently reported these observations to Mr Chua, who allegedly did not deal with them immediately.
He failed to do so even after the leak grew bigger on 12 Oct. To this, Mr Chua explained in court that he thought it was “a small thing”, quoted ST.
He thus instructed the workers to weld the machine, as he was confident he had enough experience and knowledge to operate and maintain the machine.
Mr Chua reportedly claimed to have supervised the repairs in person or through calls and texts.
Despite the quick fix, smoke emerged from the corner of the machine on 8 Jan 2021.
On 12 Feb, a fire reportedly broke out in the same area and was extinguished by workers.
One of the workers named Mr Marimuthu then told Mr Chua that the equipment was dangerous. However, Mr Chua allegedly allayed his worries by saying,
Actually this fire not come from the machine…U thinking the machine very dangerous but actually no.
On the morning of the explosion, another fire broke out at the same machine. ST reported that Mr Marimuthu called Mr Chua about 4 times within 15 minutes between 10am and 10.15am.
According to Mr Chua, he did not instruct any workers to continue operating the machine. Instead, he claimed to have told Mr Marimuthu to remove the oil and await his arrival.
Probably still worried, Mr Marimuthu messaged the company’s engineer, Mr Lwin, at around 11.15am and sent an image of the spoilt heater.
Unfortunately, the explosion occurred less than 10 minutes after.
Mr Marimuthu was one of the 10 workers injured by the blast. Due to the severity of the burns, he and 2 of his colleagues succumbed to their injuries.
After the blast, Mr Lwin reportedly informed Mr Chua that he was scared and wanted to delete the messages and photos on Mr Marimuthu’s phone which concerned the heater.
While Mr Chua did not instruct Mr Lwin to do so, he allegedly replied “ok”, reported ST.
TODAY noted that when Mr Lwin repeated his request the next day, Mr Chua told him “not to do anything stupid”.
Upon hearing that Mr Lwin had deleted the evidence from Mr Marimuthu’s phone, Mr Chua apparently scolded him.
Thankfully, the police forensics team was able to recover the deleted messages and photos.
Mr Chua and other workers were also asked about the operations of the machine and whether enough oil was used.
However, their statements seemed to suggest that the machine may not have been operated as per the manufacturer’s intentions. In particular, there were inconsistencies with the usage of the temperature sensors.
Mr Chua even mentioned that he thought there was no need to monitor the temperature of the oil as he assumed the oil would stay within the operating temperature, stated TODAY.
Chua’s hearing will continue on Friday (24 Sep) where he will testify and answer any questions from the inquiry committee.
As investigations continue, we hope the inquiry committee will be able to get to the bottom of the accident.
Though this will never compensate for the 3 workers’ lives, we hope their families will find some semblance of closure knowing what had happened.
Hopefully, this also serves as a reminder for all companies to conduct proper safety checks to prevent employees from getting hurt.
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