SingPost Centre death: Signs with emergency number put up on walls of stairwell

Mr Soh Eng Thong's body was found in the Basement 3 stairwell of the South Lobby.
Mr Soh Eng Thong's body was found in the Basement 3 stairwell of the South Lobby.PHOTOS: ST FILE, GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Signs listing an emergency number and providing directions to the nearest exit have been put up on walls in the South Lobby stairwell at SingPost Centre, days after an elderly man went missing and was found dead there.

The Straits Times found the signs - which say "For Emergency Call" in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil - on every floor from Basement 3 to Level 1 on Friday (Sept 3).

The signs were not there on Thursday when ST checked.

Mr Soh Eng Thong, 78, was found dead on Tuesday afternoon in the Basement 3 stairwell of the South Lobby. The stairwell door at Basement 3 leads to a carpark that is not in use.

The retired taxi driver had left his Haig Road home on foot last Friday night, saying he was attending a wake.

When he did not return, his family called his mobile phone repeatedly.

Mr Soh finally picked up the call on Saturday morning, and told his daughter that he was at SingPost Centre and that his legs were tired.

The family, who said Mr Soh did not have dementia, searched the mall, which is about 1km from their home.

When they could not find him, they made a police report on Saturday.

He was found lying motionless on Tuesday afternoon with his belongings laid out neatly, which is his habit, his family told ST.

A paramedic later pronounced him dead.

SingPost Centre is a mall spanning five levels that house a supermarket, cinema, eateries and enrichment centres.

ST understands that the Basement 3 carpark has been closed for more than a year.



Mr Soh Eng Thong was found dead in the Basement 3 stairwell of the South Lobby. PHOTO: SOH ENG THONG'S FAMILY

The South Lobby lifts were still not in use on Friday, but the one-way door in the stairwell at Basement 2 was left ajar, allowing users of the stairwell to exit at the floor instead of having to walk up to Level 1.

Although the Basement 3 carpark is not in use, it is possible to access it using the stairwell. It is the lowest floor in the mall.

All the doors in the basement floors are one-way, meaning that once they are shut, they cannot be opened from inside the stairwell.

The one-way doors are part of fire safety requirements for all malls.

The door on Level 1, which opens out to the side of the mall that faces the MRT tracks near Paya Lebar station, can be opened from inside the stairwell.

Once the Level 1 door is firmly shut, it cannot be opened from the outside.

The stairwell, which has air vents, is lit with motion-detector lights. There are also closed-circuit television cameras outside the stairwell door on the first floor, but not inside the stairwell.

Police investigations are ongoing. In an earlier statement, they said they do not suspect foul play.

A spokesman for SingPost had earlier expressed condolences to Mr Soh's family and said that the company is assisting with investigations.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has clarified that the purpose of an exit door is to allow members of the public to exit the building during an emergency.

Anyone who enters an exit staircase is able to get out of the building by making their way to the exit door at the ground level, which is not locked.

The Fire Code does not mandate the installation of one-way locking doors for exit staircases. However, if such doors are needed for non-fire safety considerations such as security of the premises, they must not adversely affect fire safety.
 

Correction note: This article has been updated to include comments from the SCDF.