Death of retired school principal who fell off stage during religious event a misadventure

In an inquiry into Ms Mah Yoke Ying's death on Tuesday (May 16), State Coroner Marvin Bay said that her death was a tragic misadventure.
In an inquiry into Ms Mah Yoke Ying's death on Tuesday (May 16), State Coroner Marvin Bay said that her death was a tragic misadventure. PHOTO: BW MONASTERY BLOG

SINGAPORE - A retired school principal fell off a 1.5m-high stage during a religious event and died in hospital 12 days later.

In an inquiry into Ms Mah Yoke Ying's death on Tuesday (May 16), State Coroner Marvin Bay said that her death was a tragic misadventure.

Ms Mah, 73, was an active member of the BW Monastery Society and on Nov 27, last year, she attended an event the Buddhist group organised to commemorate the death anniversary of its founder, Venerable Ri Chang.

The annual event was held at the event hall of Big Box shopping centre at Venture Avenue in Jurong and it featured a relic containing some of his remains which society members believe to be sacred.

The stage was installed at one end of the hall and, at 9am, the relic was placed at the other end for members to pay their respects.

About five hours later, the relic was transferred onto a table at the rear of the stage.

There was a 45cm path between the relic and the back edge of the stage which led to the 1.5m drop.

Coroner Bay said: "The morning segment of the event had showed that devotees had an extremely keen interest in circling the relic before it was installed on the stage.

"The extent of their interest in observing the circling ritual could have been seen by the fact that before 2.15pm, devotees had undertaken this ritual while guided by marshals controlling the human traffic to ensure that their movement proceeded smoothly in a clockwise motion."

At around 6.40pm, Ms Mah told her friend, Madam Ang Siew Woon, that she wanted to go onstage to offer her prayers.

She walked towards the relic and looked as though she wanted to walk around it when she fell off the back edge of the stage.

She was unconscious when Madam Ang came to her aid. Her friend called for help and Ms Mah was taken to the nearby Ng Teng Fong General Hospital where she was found to be suffering from a traumatic brain injury. She developed a fever on Dec 5 last year and died of pneumonia four days later due to extensive head injuries.

Coroner Bay said: "This case underscores the need for meticulous planning for various aspects for mass participation events of this nature, where there would be participants of all ages, and likely some with mobility challenges or other disabilities.

"It is hence particularly critical to identify and eliminate, or at least mitigate, fall hazards."

Representatives from BW Monastery Society, who declined to be identified, were present during Tuesday's inquiry.

They told reporters that measures have been in place to ensure similar incidents will not happen again. For instance, safety volunteers are now deployed at such events to help prevent possible mishaps in the future.