SINGAPORE - A 20-year-old food delivery rider died of extensive burns and smoke inhalation after his modified personal mobility device (PMD) burst into flames while he was in a lift with it.
On the first day of a coroner’s inquiry into the death of Mr Muhammad Irfan Danish Azhar, a police investigation officer said that the device was non-compliant with safety standards.
Woodlands Division Station Inspector Sofian Azami said on Tuesday that the PMD was already modified when Mr Irfan bought it from online platform Carousell in December 2020.
“He modified it (further) by changing the battery to (one of) a higher voltage,” he said.
Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) senior fire investigator Muhammad Faizal Mazlan, who also took the stand on Tuesday, said the fire was of electrical origin and likely occurred from within the PMD.
“The battery pack did not have a battery management system (BMS), which protects against overcharging or overheating,” he added.
“Bypassing the BMS allows the PMD to charge faster, but more current could have been drawn from the battery than expected, possibly leading to overheating.”
The court heard that Mr Irfan had left his flat on the ninth floor of Block 537 Woodlands Drive 16 at around 11.25pm on June 3, 2021, to help a friend to tow a PMD.
According to witness accounts and closed-circuit television footage, he was alone in the lift with his PMD when flashes of orange light were seen as the lift descended.
An explosion was heard and Mr Irfan was seen pressing lift buttons on the lower register. The lift door opened on the second floor and he fled from the burning lift.
One resident heard someone calling out for his mother in pain and later saw Mr Irfan on fire. Parts of his body were charred and other areas pinkish.
Neighbours put out the lift fire with buckets of water before SCDF officers arrived. Police officers found Mr Irfan, covered in ashes, lying on a staircase landing. He was conscious then and told them that he could not breathe.
Mr Irfan was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and he died the next day. He suffered burns on 95 per cent of his body surface area.
According to his best friend, Mr Irfan had bought the PMD for about $1,800 on Carousell.
The friend knew the device was modified as he had seen Mr Irfan riding faster than he would on PMDs approved by the authorities, the police investigator said.
Station Insp Sofian said: “The deceased was known to have a vast interest in PMDs and had antecedents with LTA (Land Transport Authority) for owning modified devices.”
According to his stepmother, Mr Irfan would typically charge the PMD for four to five hours at home after completing his round of deliveries.
Senior fire investigator Muhammad Faizal said the most probable scenarios leading to the fire include cumulative damage to the battery pack and overheating of components.
Mr Irfan had used a 24Ah battery pack in the PMD that day, the court heard. A 15Ah battery pack came with the PMD when he bought it.
Investigations found that the motor of the PMD was also modified, likely to allow the user to ride it at a higher speed.
The inquiry continues.
In 2021, there were 32 fires involving PMDs and 23 involving power-assisted bicycles.
Five tips to prevent electrical fires
- Regularly check your device’s batteries for any damage or deformities, including the presence of corrosion or a powdery residue.
- Do not charge a personal mobility device or power-assisted bicycle in the escape path of your residence.
- Charge your device on a hard, flat surface so that heat can dissipate.
- Use a power adaptor that carries the Safety Mark and is recommended by the device’s manufacturer.
- Buy a PMD that is certified under the UL2272 standard. Power-assisted bicycles should be certified under the EN15194 standard and bear the Land Transport Authority’s orange seal of approval.
Sources: Singapore Civil Defence Force, Land Transport Authority and National Fire And Emergency Preparedness Council