SMRT, 2 others charged over fatal track accident

Sacked SMRT assistant engineer Lim Say Heng (left), director of control operations Teo Wee Kiat (centre), and SMRT's chief technology officer Ng Bor Kiat (right).
Sacked SMRT assistant engineer Lim Say Heng (left), director of control operations Teo Wee Kiat (centre), and SMRT's chief technology officer Ng Bor Kiat (right). ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

Sacked engineer and SMRT's director of control operations face action; probe still on to find out if more are liable for lapses

Investigations are still ongoing to determine if any other individuals should be held liable for safety lapses which played a part in the on-track deaths of two SMRT workers on March 22.

This was revealed by the Attorney-General's Chambers yesterday when it charged the rail operator, a director and a former employee over the incident.

On March 22, Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, were fatally hit by a train travelling at 60kmh near Pasir Ris MRT station. The pair, who had joined SMRT just two months earlier, were part of a team of 15 who were sent to check on a potential equipment flaw.

Since the incident, SMRT has sacked the train driver and Lim Say Heng, the assistant engineer in charge of the March 22 on-track team. It has also disciplined staff, including senior management, for their role in the accident.

Lim, 47, was yesterday charged with failing to ensure trains could not enter the track before the men accessed it. That allegedly resulted in the train hitting the two men, who died of multiple injuries.

National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong said the union would support Lim and his family and ensure that he was fairly represented.

"While we cannot comment on any ongoing legal proceedings, the union maintains that it is important to allow due process to take its course and all facts to be revealed before drawing any conclusions," he said.

SMRT Trains, which is expected to plead guilty, is accused of failing to ensure that its employees complied with approved operating procedures when accessing the track.

The charge also says it did not ensure that the procedures practised by its employees to access the track passed safety audits, and were documented and dis- seminated.

The company was represented by its chief technology officer Ng Bor Kiat in court yesterday.

A pre-trial conference has been set for Dec 30.

Teo Wee Kiat, 40, SMRT's director of control operations, faces the same charge as SMRT. If convicted, Teo could be fined up to $200,000 and/or jailed for up to two years. SMRT Trains faces a fine of up to $500,000.

For Lim, meanwhile, the maximum penalty for causing death by committing a negligent act is two years in jail and a fine.

A week after the accident, the Manpower Ministry, in consultation with the Land Transport Authority, issued several interim safety orders to SMRT.

Among them, SMRT had to ensure that no trains are driven in automatic mode for sections of the track where workers are on an adjacent track walkway.

Watchmen should also be deployed to alert staff to any oncoming trains, and there should be "robust authentication procedures" between workers on the tracks and the operations control centre.

In April, SMRT, after its own investigations, admitted that a failure to follow safety measures before allowing a work team onto the train tracks had "directly" caused the accident.

The lapses included allowing a train to ply in automatic mode while workers were on site, not deploying watchmen to look out for approaching trains and failing to provide early warning to the work team.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2016, with the headline 'SMRT, 2 others charged over fatal track accident'. Print Edition | Subscribe