Pasir Ris MRT track accident: One year on

Pasir Ris MRT track accident one year on: What has happened since the accident

Paramedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force retrieving the body of one of the two SMRT maintenance staff who were killed in the accident along the train track near Pasir Ris MRT station on March 22 last year.
Paramedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force retrieving the body of one of the two SMRT maintenance staff who were killed in the accident along the train track near Pasir Ris MRT station on March 22 last year.ST FILE PHOTO
After seeing his friend die the SMRT accident last year, Muhammad Hatin Kamil learned to move on by going back to work on the train tracks.

SMRT

The rail operator has implemented additional safeguards for staff working on running tracks during traffic hours, such as switching on a red flashing light with an appropriate sign displayed. It has also introduced more stringent checks for track access during traffic hours.

Each request is reported to management alongside information such as the location, time and duration of access, as well as protection arrangements - for better monitoring and detecting of deviations in practice.

SMRT has also improved the audit process for track access.

Previously, checks were not conducted as track access is an ad-hoc activity, meaning audits can be done only on short notice. Inspectors have since been attached to signal maintenance, to check on compliance for access during traffic hours.

Other measures include a new department - the Track Access Management Office - to plan, coordinate and control track access in non-traffic hours.

On Feb 28, SMRT pleaded guilty to one charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to take measures necessary to ensure the safety and health of its employees in accessing train tracks, and was fined a record $400,000.

MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

The ministry, which did an investigation into the case as well, revealed on Feb 28 that not only did SMRT fail to comply with approved operating procedures on the day of the accident, but non-compliance had been taking place as early as 2002.

It said these deviations were not documented nor properly authorised, which resulted in an "unsafe workplace that eventually led to the death of two of its employees".

SMRT has accepted full responsibility and said it has reviewed safety protocols and procedures.

COURT ACTION

A coroner's inquiry is expected to be held this year. Two SMRT employees - Mr Teo Wee Kiat, 40, director of control operations, and Mr Lim Say Heng, 47, assistant engineer in charge of the March 22 on-track team - have been charged in relation to the accident.

LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY

The LTA said it has completed its investigations into the incident but cannot comment further as there are still cases before the court.

A spokesman said it will release its findings at "an appropriate juncture".


Survivor worked to overcome fear of tracks

He saw his best friend crushed by an oncoming train, in a fatal accident that happened just months after they joined SMRT as trainees.

But the thought of quitting the company or taking on roles un-related to track work has never been an option for Mr Muhammad Hatin Kamil, 25, though SMRT had asked if he would like to change departments.

Instead, he completed his training and is now working as a technical officer in the signal department, where he sometimes does track- related work.


It took Mr Hatin about six months after the accident to return to work on tracks. He is now a technical officer in the signal department. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mr Hatin said he worked hard on overcoming his fears - by facing them. "It takes time to recover, quite a long time," he said. "I knew if I were to change jobs, things would remain the same; the scar would still be there.

"People say tough times don't last, tough men do - that is what a friend taught me."

On March 22 last year, Mr Hatin was part of a 15-strong team sent to investigate a possible fault near Pasir Ris MRT station at around 11am. As they were getting onto the track, a train hurtled towards them at 60kmh - unbeknown to the group.

It narrowly missed Mr Hatin but killed two other trainees: Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24.

When he turned to check on Mr Nasrulhudin, who was his "best buddy", he saw the pair hit by the train. One was crushed and the other flew some 5m away.

It was not easy, though, said Mr Hatin, recounting how he found himself unable to travel by train in the weeks after the accident.

"I had flashbacks each time I took one. I would think, 'So this is the speed that it hit my friends'," he said, adding that he stopped work for four months, and saw a psychiatrist.

He also used to recall his conversation with Mr Nasrulhudin on the morning of the incident.

"While I was in a train with Nasrul at the Tampines MRT station, he pointed to show me where his home was," said Mr Hatin. "The next day, I was there - to see his body."

It took him about six months after the accident to return to work on tracks, although some colleagues advised him otherwise.

But even now, whenever he is on the tracks, his gaze would flit around involuntarily, looking around to see if there was any train heading his way, said Mr Hatin.

"The anxiety is there. I am scared it might happen again," he said, adding that safety and communication are paramount to him.

Still, looking back at what happened, he said he believes everything happens for a reason.

"Sometimes, people make mistakes. Leave it and let go - you have to move on," he added.


One year ago, SMRT trainees Nasrulhudin Najumudin and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari died in Singapore’s worst rail accident when a train hit them shortly after they stepped onto the rail tracks. Seow Bei Yi speaks to their families and friends on how they are coping.

Pasir Ris MRT track accident one year on: I keep thinking about him, says mum


Mr Asyraf, one of the two SMRT trainees killed in the accident, would have turned 25 on Monday. PHOTO: ASYRAF AHMAD/ FACEBOOK

For the first 100 days after her son died in a fatal train accident near Pasir Ris MRT station last year, Madam Rosma would visit his grave at the Muslim cemetery in Lim Chu Kang - daily.

On Monday, the housewife, 54, braved the rain to do so again with flowers in her arms and prayers on her lips.

It was her son's birthday. Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari would have turned 25.

"I just want to be with him for a while," said Madam Rosma, opening up to the media for the first time since the accident on March 22 last year. She declined to give her full name.

"I needed to be there - when he left us, I was not in Singapore," she told The Straits Times, her voice thick with emotion.

Mr Asyraf was one of two SMRT trainees who died after a train crashed into them. They were in a team sent to the tracks to check on an apparent fault. The other was Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26.

Madam Rosma and her family were in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for a pilgrimage when the accident happened. They rushed back after hearing the news.

"Whatever I am doing, I keep thinking about him," said the mother of four. "I did not dare to touch most of his belongings," she added, saying that her family members were the ones who tidied them after Mr Asyraf's death.

"I am not able to do it as yet; it is still so fresh," she said.

Last week, marking the anniversary of the accident on the Muslim calendar, her family conducted prayers with their close friends and relatives for Mr Asyraf and Mr Nasrulhudin.

Looking back, Madam Rosma said she was reminded of her second son's kindness and sincerity on the day of his funeral last year.

"A lady came up to me and told me, 'You don't know me, but when I met with an accident, your son got down from his motorbike to render help'," she recalled with pride.

Madam Rosma said she is also comforted by the regular calls and visits from her son's close friends.

"They come by our home, and that is a way (for me to remember him). They also tell me stories of how they spent their time together," she added.

But trying to move on, her biggest wish is that such an accident will not happen again.

"I do hope that SMRT will ensure such a thing will never happen again to anyone else, not to anyone else's child," she said.

Pasir Ris MRT track accident one year on: Family does not blame anyone


Mr Nasrulhudin came from a close-knit family who went on holidays together once or twice a year. PHOTO: NASRULHUDIN NAJUMUDIN/ FACEBOOK

Madam Norizan Ismail still remembers the exact question from her husband that sparked her fears that their son Nasrulhudin Najumudin may have been involved in a train accident near the Pasir Ris MRT station.

"Did Nasrul contact you?" her husband Najumudin Mohd Sahabudin, a technical officer who works in SMRT, asked on the phone.

He was then managing the crowd after train services were suspended following the accident on March 22 last year, and rang home after hearing that the victims were from their son's department.

When Madam Norizan, 55, later received confirmation that her 26-year-old son was one of the two fatalities, she broke down: "I was speechless. I felt my entire body shaking... I just cried."

To this day, she gets emotional thinking about her son, who died along with Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, in the accident.

Not long after she got home that day, SMRT's chief executive and her son's manager arrived to explain what had happened, she said.

"They supported us," she added simply of the company.

She said SMRT provided her family and Mr Asyraf's family with cars for them to visit the graves in the weeks following the accident. The pair were buried side by side.

Both families held prayers last week to mark the anniversary of the two victims' deaths.

Madam Norizan said the most emotional period for her close-knit family in the past year was having to spend their first Hari Raya without Mr Nasrulhudin.

"Before that incident, once or twice a year, we would have a family holiday," she said, reminiscing about their last trip to Malaysia, in January last year. "We always made an effort to spend time together."

Despite the pain, Madam Norizan, who revealed that she prays for her third son every day, appeared forgiving towards the SMRT.

The rail operator was fined $400,000 last month for failing to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of employees who had to access the train tracks during traffic hours.

"When we read about it (the fine), we felt bad," said the customer service supervisor.

"As far as our family is concerned, nobody wanted this to happen. We are not blaming anyone.

"Even the supervisor... He has suffered enough because of this incident. It must have been traumatic for him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'What has happened since the accident'. Print Edition | Subscribe