Teen jumped from 7th floor flat to meet friends and died in 'tragic misadventure', says coroner

State Coroner Marvin Bay said 14-year-old Carman's death was a tragic misadventure.
State Coroner Marvin Bay said 14-year-old Carman's death was a tragic misadventure. ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - She wanted to go out with her friends, but Carmen's guardian locked the front door, held on to the keys and refused to let her leave the flat.

So, Carmen, 14, tied a pillow and a soft toy to her body and jumped out of the seventh floor flat in Block 519, West Coast Road at about 9pm on Feb 25 (2017). The pillow and toy were intended to cushion her fall.

State Coroner Marvin Bay, in an inquiry into Carmen's death on Friday (Aug 18), said: "Her fall went catastrophically wrong, with Carmen's head impacting against a drain and only part of her body landing on a grass patch."

Her death, he said, was a tragic misadventure. "While Carmen's fall was effectively a deliberate act, it is plain that she did not intend the dire consequences," he added.

Carmen, who went by only one name, was a secondary school student. She had been living with her guardian Chan Tuck Foon since she was six years old.

Mr Chan and Carmen's mother, who lives in Batam, knew each other from their business dealings. In 2006, Mr Chan brought Carmen to Singapore for her studies, and also agreed to pay her school fees. However, Carmen regularly got into trouble in school.

Coroner Bay said she picked up smoking early last year and was caught lighting up in school on three occasions. After serving detention, she left the school premises and was caught smoking again at the nearby Housing Board blocks.

He said: "Carmen's school report reflected that her attendance was irregular, with fair punctuality and conduct, and poor academic performance. The report also said she started running away from home from June 2016. Her guardian sought help from the school to locate Carmen and keep him updated of her behaviour."

She was counselled by the staff on several occasions, but would go back to her old ways when she met her friends. Carmen was also caught shoplifting twice.

Coroner Bay said Mr Chan had approached a family service centre on Dec 8 last year with a request for Carmen to undergo counselling. She attended four sessions between Jan 4 and Jan 26 but her bad behaviour did not stop.

Mr Chan then thought about sending her back to Indonesia.

On Feb 25, the day of her fatal fall, Carmen was crying and wanted to leave the house and go out with her friends. Said Coroner Bay: "But Mr Chan held firm in his refusal to let her mix with individuals whom he felt to be a bad influence. He resorted to desperate measures, which included locking the main door and retaining the key."

Carmen then called her friend and asked her to come over to her house. With a laugh, she also asked the friend, who cannot be named as she is underage, whether she would die if she jumped from the flat, covered in pillows. The friend did not give her a clear answer.

At about 9pm, Mr Chan's mother went to the teenager's room and found it empty. She noticed that the kitchen window and grilles were open, and there was a chair nearby. She then alerted her son, who was in his room.

Carmen was rushed to the National University Hospital but she died of multiple injuries about 50 minutes later.