Overheated PMD caused fire linked to man's death

Court hears device was being charged in flat and path to safety might have been blocked

Private-hire driver Goh Keng Soon, 40, died two days after the fire broke out in his flat in Bukit Batok (left) in July last year. The coroner's court heard that the path to safety for him and his family might have been blocked as the burning persona
Private-hire driver Goh Keng Soon, 40, died two days after the fire broke out in his flat in Bukit Batok in July last year. The coroner's court heard that the path to safety for him and his family might have been blocked as the burning personal mobility device and sofa were near the front door.PHOTOS: ST READER, ST FILE
Private-hire driver Goh Keng Soon, 40, died two days after the fire broke out in his flat in Bukit Batok (left) in July last year. The coroner's court heard that the path to safety for him and his family might have been blocked as the burning persona
Private-hire driver Goh Keng Soon, 40, died two days after the fire broke out in his flat in Bukit Batok (above) in July last year. The coroner's court heard that the path to safety for him and his family might have been blocked as the burning personal mobility device and sofa were near the front door.PHOTOS: ST READER, ST FILE

A fire in a Bukit Batok flat last year that led to the death of the home owner was caused by a personal mobility device (PMD) that overheated as it was being charged, the coroner's court heard yesterday.

The Straits Times had earlier reported that private-hire driver Goh Keng Soon, 40, was unconscious when he was pulled out of his flat on July 18 last year.

He died two days later. He is possibly the first person known to have died in a fire linked to a PMD.

At an inquiry on his death, Inspector Muhammad Eszham Sabtu said Mr Goh, who suffered burns, died of multiple organ failure following a heart attack. He also had coronary artery disease.

The investigation officer told State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam that three PMDs were found in the living room, but only one was being charged at the time.

He also said that when the fire broke out, Mr Goh tried to save his two dogs, but owing to the heat and smoke, he retreated to a toilet where he collapsed. Insp Eszham added that even though it was unclear if Mr Goh had saved his pets, both dogs survived the blaze.

Major Huang Weikang from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) told the state coroner three people were injured following the fire but only Mr Goh died. The other two were his wife and a neighbour.

Maj Huang believes the fire was accidental and said that the living room furniture fuelled the flames.

He said the path to safety for Mr Goh and his family might have been blocked as the burning PMD and sofa were near the front door.

As a safety precaution, he told the court that people should use only PMDs approved by the Land Transport Authority, adding: "Don't charge them overnight or (charge them) unattended."

Singapore saw a record 102 fires involving PMDs last year, almost double that of the previous year.

The SCDF had reportedly said all the fires involved non-UL2272-certified devices with some modification, mainly to the battery.

The UL2272 requirement was developed by an independent United States certification company.

It specifies a set of safety requirements covering the electrical drive train system of motorised PMDs.

All PMDs in Singapore must now be UL2272-certified.

The court heard that Mr Goh's PMD was damaged in the blaze.

As a result, it could not be ascertained if its battery management system was UL2272-certified.

The state coroner will give her findings at a later date.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'Overheated PMD caused fire linked to man's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe