SINGAPORE - Two SMRT maintenance staff were killed in an accident along the train track near Pasir Ris MRT station on Tuesday (March 22) morning, with train services on the East-West Line between Tanah Merah and Pasir Ris stations suspended for more than two hours.
They were believed to have been hit by an oncoming train.
Mr Patrick Nathan, SMRT's vice-president for corporate information and communications, said that the accident occurred at around 11.10am near a servicing point.
Singaporeans Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, had been undergoing on-the-job training at the time of the accident, Mr Nathan said in a later statement.
The two men, who joined SMRT in January this year, were part of a technical team that went down to the track to investigate a reported alarm from a condition monitoring device for signalling equipment.
"Permission to access the track was authorised," Mr Nathan added. "Initial findings indicate that before the accident happened, the team was moving in a single file on the walkway beside the track, on the way to the location of the signalling equipment.
"We convey our deepest condolences to their families and are in touch with them to render support and assistance at this very difficult time.
"We are working with the police to conduct a detailed investigation into this accident. SMRT is reviewing all safety procedures in particular those that involve track access."
In a statement, SMRT Trains' managing director Lee Ling Wee apologised to those affected by the accident and said the company's first priority was to the victims' families.
In response to queries, an SCDF spokesman said it was alerted to the incident at 11.11am and dispatched a fire engine, two fire bikes, a red rhino, two ambulances and three support vehicles.
Both men were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, the spokesman added.
Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, in a Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon, said he was "extremely saddened" by the tragic accident.
Mr Chan added that the National Transport Workers’ Union will do what is necessary to support the affected workers during this diffcult time.
"We must all do our part to keep each other safe at the workplace. Every accident is one accident too many," he wrote.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a statement that it was assisting with investigations and "will extend our assistance to their next-of-kin where necessary".
Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Melvin Yong wrote in a Facebook post: "On behalf of the National Transport Workers' Union, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families of the two workers who were killed in the fatal train accident this morning along the East-West Line."
Mr Yong, who is also executive secretary of the union, said he was at Pasir Ris station with union leaders to render support to the affected families and workers.
"When we first got news of the accident, the union mobilised our union leaders - the most important thing is to reach out to the families of the affected workers," Mr Yong told reporters outside the station.
"There are two groups, one is the families of the two deceased workers, the other is our workers who were at the scene themselves."
Access to the station was blocked for more than two hours before it was reopened at close to 2pm, with SMRT staff stationed at the entrances to inform commuters to take the bus instead.
A long queue was also spotted at the nearby taxi stand.
Mr Beez, a 51-year-old guitar technician, said: "It impacts everybody - not just the incident today, but any incident or accident. Nobody wants things like that to happen. But if it's indeed a safety issue, SMRT should address it."
At Tanah Merah MRT station, SMRT staff and police officers were seen managing crowds and giving advice to commuters affected by the service suspension.
They also handed out tickets for a complimentary train ride.
The rail operator first tweeted about the track incident at 11.20am.
It said service was expected to resume at 12.15pm, which was subsequently revised to 12.30pm, then 12.45pm and later 1.15pm.
Train service only resumed at close to 2pm, although SMRT warned commuters to expect an additional 10 minutes of travelling time.
Private tutor Kay Tan, who was walking past Pasir Ris station on the way home, said she saw close to 20 SCDF and police officers, as well as SMRT staff, gathered on the tracks near a train, which had stopped just outside the station.
"I'm not sure if it was the head or tail-end of the train, but they appeared to be trying to extricate something from underneath it," said the 25-year-old.
Freelance videographer Jeremy Ho, 26, told The Straits Times he was on the way up the escalator to the train platform at Pasir Ris station at around 11.40am when he heard an announcement being broadcast.
"It said that train service had stopped and asked passengers to leave the station. No reason was given," Mr Ho added.
SMRT said in a tweet at 11.30am that regular bus services between the two stations have been made free.
Free shuttle bus services were also available to ferry affected passengers.
The last fatal accident involving SMRT staff was in 2010, when a technician was struck by a LRT train while attending to a fault on the track.
The 48-year-old was at a designated walkway, checking the power rail between Phoenix and Bukit Panjang stations, when an oncoming train hit him at Phoenix station at about 8am on Oct 17. He suffered injuries to his head and legs, and died 12 days later.