PIE uncompleted highway structure collapse: Workers rushed down from dorms to check on friends

Workers gathering around the site as rescue operations are being carried out. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - The area around it was pitch dark, but there was grim, frenzied activity at the Upper Changi Road East site where the collapse of a structure in the wee hours of Friday (July 14) left one worker dead and 10 others injured.

A worker, who declined to be identified, said they had been pouring concrete at the structure when it gave way. Among the injured was a man who broke his leg, and another whose torso was punctured, he added.

The Straits Times was alerted to the incident at around 4.05am, and photojournalist Ariffin Jamar, 30, who arrived on the scene, witnessed a group of paramedics and firefighters trying to revive a man. They were successful, and he was taken away on a stretcher.

The structure had collapsed around 3.35am at a slip road into the Pan-Island Expressway, and the area was dark as the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel rushed about the area.

ST saw the SCDF's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team officers on scene, along with search dogs.

There was little traffic at that hour, but all lanes of Upper Changi Road East were closed, except for one.

There were several workers on the scene, but others had rushed down from their dormitories after hearing of the accident. They were checking on the well-being of their friends who had been working on the site.

SCDF said in a Facebook post that the 10 other workers have been sent to Changi General Hospital.

At around 7am, it said all workers at the construction site have been accounted for and that search and rescue operations had been completed.

In a media statement, the Land Transport Authority said the firm Or Kim Peow Contractors was carrying out works to cast decking for the new viaduct when a section of the structure between two piers collapsed.

By 6.15am, the search with dogs had been called off. At about 7am, the undertakers came and removed the body from the site.

Most residents nearby said they were unaware of the extent of the accident.

"I heard a loud boom while I was asleep, but thought it was a regular night of work at the site," said Ms Koh Geok Lan, 60, who lives across from the accident site.

She added that she saw a long line of police and SCDF vehicles stopped by Upper Changi Road East, across from her home at Block 346, Tampines Street 33.

"There was a notice to say they would be working in the night for two days this month, so I didn't think too much about it," she said, adding that it had been dark when she heard the crash, and she could not see much.

But in the morning, she realised the structure connecting the uncompleted bridge was gone.

"The red structure (connecting the uncompleted part of the bridge) had been up for a while, and I've seen many men working on top of the structure every day," said Ms Koh.

Another resident who also lives in Block 346 said she heard a loud metallic screech.

"It was a very loud sound - there was a screech. It was very metallic-sounding, but I assumed that they were moving something and it dropped," added undergraduate Shriya Sriram, 20.

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