State coroner finds death of man killed in PMD-related fire an 'unfortunate misadventure'

The fire that broke out in Mr Goh Keng Soon's Bukit Batok flat was caused by battery packs that overheated as they were being charged.
The fire that broke out in Mr Goh Keng Soon's Bukit Batok flat was caused by battery packs that overheated as they were being charged.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The state coroner on Thursday (May 6) found the death of a 40-year-old private-hire driver, who possibly was the first person to have died in Singapore following a fire linked to a personal mobility device (PMD), to be an "unfortunate misadventure".

State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said the case highlighted the "grave danger" of having devices that are not UL2272-certified.

The UL2272 requirement, which was developed by an independent certification company in the United States, specifies a set of safety requirements covering the electrical drive train system, including the battery system and electrical components of motorised PMDs.

The fire broke out in the wee hours of July 18, 2019, three years after Mr Goh Keng Soon bought his PMD.

All local retailers were banned from selling non-UL2272 certified motorised PMDs from July 1, 2019. All non-UL2272 certified motorised PMDs have also been banned from public paths from July 1 last year.

On Thursday, State Coroner Kamala urged PMD-users to get rid of such non-compliant devices.

The fire broke out in Mr Goh's Bukit Batok flat, and it was caused by battery packs that overheated as they were being charged.

Mr Goh was unconscious when he was pulled out of his flat on July 18, 2019, and he died two days later.

Investigation officer Muhammad Eszham Sabtu had earlier told the court that Mr Goh, who suffered burns, died of multiple organ failure following a heart attack. He had coronary artery disease.

The officer told State Coroner Kamala that three PMDs were found in the living room but only one was being charged at the time. The officer also told the court that when the fire broke out, Mr Goh tried to save his two dogs. The court heard that due to the heat and smoke, he retreated to a toilet, where he collapsed.

Both dogs survived the blaze.

Major Huang Weikang from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had earlier testified that three people were injured following the fire, but only Mr Goh died.

The other two were his wife and a neighbour.

Major Huang believed that the fire was accidental and that the living room furniture fuelled the flames.

He told the court that the path to safety for Mr Goh might have been blocked, as the burning PMD and sofa were near the front door.

As a safety precaution, he added: "Don't charge (PMDs) overnight or (charge them) unattended."

SCDF statistics released this February showed that there were 68 fires involving power-assisted bicycles (PABs) and PMDs last year.

More than two-thirds of the fires occurred on residential premises. In 2019, there were 115 such fires.

The SCDF had said most of the PAB and PMD fires which it responded to were caused by the use of non-compliant devices such as non-UL2272 certified PMDs, modified devices or incompatible power adaptors.