Maid's fatal fall while cleaning windows an unfortunate misdventure: Coroner

Ms Ella Wahyu Setyaningrum had been in Singapore about a month before her fall from height at Punggol Parcvista at Sumang Link on Dec 3 last year.
Ms Ella Wahyu Setyaningrum had been in Singapore about a month before her fall from height at Punggol Parcvista at Sumang Link on Dec 3 last year. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - An Indonesian maid died a day after she fell from a third-storey Housing Board flat service balcony while cleaning windows, a coroner's court heard on Friday (May 12) as it recorded her death as an "unfortunate misadventure".

Ms Ella Wahyu Setyaningrum, 25, had been in Singapore about a month before her fall from height at Punggol Parcvista at Sumang Link on Dec 3 last year.

State Coroner Marvin Bay said circumstantial evidence points to Ms Ella having fallen from height while undertaking the cleaning of the kitchen window, apparently using a grey stool for access.

It was her 10th day of work. When she started working for the household on Nov 24, there was a three-day overlap when the family's previous maid taught her how to do the household chores.

Ms Ella's main task was to take care of her employer who had undergone bypass surgery. She had worked for four days for another family before the transfer.

On Dec 3, the employer's 36-year-old daughter, who is married, and Ms Ella had been cleaning the service balcony.

 

Later, when the daughter saw Ms Ella standing on a stool to retrieve some clothing from the indoor drying rack, she reportedly admonished her and instructed her on the proper way to keep clothing on the drying rack.

She asserted that she had not asked Ms Ella to clean the windows when she went to sleep.

She woke up at about 1.20pm after hearing a woman's voice shouting for her. She ran to the kitchen and called out for Ms Ella, but there was no response.

Ms Ella was found lying face down at the foot of the block. Her right hand was encased in a plastic bag. She died from multiple injuries in hospital at about 2am the next day.

Although no one saw Ms Ella cleaning the windows, a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) report noted the circumstantial evidence from the pink cloth that was found at the ledge to the bottle of cleaning fluid found on the washing machine near the window.

Investigation by MOM did not reveal that Ms Ella had any other issues relating to her well-being, or to any salary issues during her employment.

The employer and the household have been placed on an interim blacklist pending the inquiry.

Coroner Bay, recording Ms Ella's death as an "unfortunate misadventure'', said it was possible that miscommunication could have played a role in Ms Ella's ill-fated attempt to clean the windows, given her poor grasp of English and the daughter's inability to speak in Malay or Bahasa Indonesia.

He said it would be helpful for employers to emphasise to their domestic helpers the dangers in cleaning windows, hanging laundry, or accessing structures and other parts of a home that present potential fall hazards.

"Domestic helpers, particularly those from rural backgrounds, may be naive to the hazards inherent in undertaking such work without proper tools and methods, or supervision.

"Some may put themselves at even greater risk by improvising with stools, chairs and ladders to access hard-to-reach places,'' he said.