Coroner's inquiry into chemist death: Blast at Jurong gas firm was so strong that it blew workers off their chairs

Ms Lim Siaw Chian, a chemist at Leeden National Oxygen, died in the October 2015 explosion.
Ms Lim Siaw Chian, a chemist at Leeden National Oxygen, died in the October 2015 explosion. PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF LIM SIAW CHIAN
The husband of Ms Lim Siaw Chian (left) and family members leaving court on March 28, 2016.
The husband of Ms Lim Siaw Chian (left) and family members leaving court on March 28, 2016. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - An explosion at a Jurong industrial gas supply firm was so strong that it blew two workers off their chairs and caused part of the ceiling to collapse, a coroner's court heard on Monday (March 28).

Madam Lim Siaw Chian, 30, a chemist at Leeden National Oxygen, who had then just returned from maternity leave, died in the ensuing October 2015 fire.

Three other workers were hurt in the blaze which engulfed the ground floor laboratory at the firm in Tanjong Kling Road, the court heard on the first day of the inquiry into Madam Lim's death.

Her charred remains were found on six occasions, over a two-month period, and were identified via her infant daughter's DNA.

Police investigator Mohammad Amin Majid told the court that investigations by the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Ministry of Manpower into the cause of the blaze have yet to be completed.

State Coroner Marvin Bay adjourned the hearing to April 15.

The inquiry heard that Madam Lim, who was also known as Krysten, was working at the Leeden's Specialty Gas Centre Quality Control Laboratory when the fire broke out on Oct 12, 2015. Work in the lab includes testing and analysing gases. Leeden is involved in the storage, mixing and bottling of industrial gases such as hydrogen, helium, nitrogen and argon, for supply to shipyards and industrial firms.

At about 9.20am, a worker who was in the lab saw a flash of fire, heard an explosion and saw the ceiling collapse. He ran out of the room immediately.

Two other workers fell off their chairs because of the blast. They shouted for Madam Lim, but did not get any response. They were also forced to flee the room.

Further explosions were heard, and a blaze engulfed the lab.

Another worker who had earlier left the lab tried to return there to look for Madam Lim, but was urged by the company's emergency response team not to enter the lab.

The team managed to contain the fire until firefighters arrived. About 10 workers used hoses, fire hydrants and extinguishers to prevent the blaze from spreading. They also activated the carbon dioxide supression system.

The wake for Madam Lim, who had received Singapore citizenship just a month before she died,was held in Skudai, Johor; Her husband, brother and aunt attended the inquiry on Monday (March 29), as did representatives from Leedon.

Outside the courtroom, Madam Lim's husband Ooi Peng Fung told reporters: "It has been very hard; we are still coping with the loss. We just want to find out what happened."