Man's fall from height while dismantling bamboo pole an unfortunate misadventure: Coroner

SINGAPORE - A 64-year-old man who had a weak knee fell 11 floors to his death while standing on a stool to do some maintenance work along a common corridor.

A cocktail of illicit drugs was found in Mr Ali Amat Awang Chik's blood.

A forensic pathologist said these substances, which had no direct role in Mr Ali's death, could have decreased alertness and caused dizziness, confusion, agitation and other symptoms.

In his findings of an inquest into Mr Ali's death, delivered on Friday (Sept 15), State Coroner Marvin Bay said the unemployed man's sense of balance may have been thrown off by his weak knee, awkward working position on the stool, as well as the effects of the drugs.

"He had very possibly lost his balance while on his precarious perch on the black stool. Having lost his balance within the confined space, he had likely fallen over the parapet, and sustained his fatal injuries," he said.

Coroner Bay said that based on the evidence uncovered, there was no basis to suspect foul play. He found Mr Ali's death to be an "unfortunate misadventure".

Mr Ali had a medical history which included hypertension, migraine and osteoarthritis of his left knee.

On April 27 - 10 days before his fatal fall from his block in Bukit Batok East Avenue 5 - he was arrested for stealing a gold chain and consuming heroin. He was released on police bail, pending investigation.

The inquest heard that on May 7, Mr Ali was at home when he told his wife, Madam Sutinah Hamzah, 57, that he intended to remove a bamboo pole that had been hanging along their corridor, and also certain screws from the top of the wall that he had used to secure his bird cages.

About five to 10 minutes later, Madam Sutinah, a retiree, heard a loud scream outside.

She searched for her husband but could not find him. Instead, she found his slippers, tools and a black stool along the corridor.

Peering over the metre-high parapet, she saw her husband lying on the grass patch on the ground floor.

A toxicological analysis found amphetamine, chloroquine, methamphetamine and morphine in Mr Ali's blood at the time of his death.

Coroner Bay said Mr Ali's demise calls attention to the need for home owners in high-rise apartments to be mindful when they do maintenance works along the common corridor and other spaces outside their units.

Once people are significantly elevated from the ground, he said, the parapet wall may offer little protection.

A fall within the confined space of the common corridor may project or propel the hapless individual over the parapet, to a precipitous fall from a height, which may cause catastrophic injuries, if not death, the coroner added.