Deadly Tuas explosion linked to machine that emitted smoke previously
Damaged heater on a mixer linked to cause of incident in February, which killed three workers
For one minute yesterday, everyone in the courtroom stood in silence, reflecting on the deaths of three men.
Mr Anisuzzaman MD, 29, Mr Subbaiyan Marimuthu, 38, and Mr Shohel MD, 23, died from severe burns to 90 per cent of their bodies following an explosion at a Tuas industrial building on Feb 24.
The force of the blast blew out the window panels in the building, caused the rear wall of the workshop to collapse and ripped a large hole in the adjoining wall.
The court heard that minutes before the explosion, Mr Subbaiyan took a photo of a damaged heater on a mixer and sent it to an engineer overseeing production.
But after the accident, the engineer, Mr Lwin Moe Tun, deleted the photo from his and Mr Subbaiyan's phone.
An inquiry committee, chaired by Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun, was appointed on March 2. The first tranche of hearings for the incident began yesterday.
At the opening of the hearings, Judge Ong called for a minute of silence, saying the three men, from India and Bangladesh, had left their home towns to work here and had tragically lost their lives.
"We thank them for their contributions to Singapore and extend our condolences to their loved ones," he said.
The employees of Stars Engrg, a fire protection contractor, were in a workshop on the first floor of the building at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 when the explosion happened at about 11.20am that day.
A total of 10 men were injured in the blast.
A State Counsel team led by Ms Kristy Tan gave an opening statement. She said a mixer machine was bought online and installed at the workshop in June last year.
It was used to mix ingredients including potato starch to make fire clay, which is used to make the fire wrap produced by Stars Engrg.
The machine used nine heaters which were meant to heat oil placed in a compartment that wrapped the mixer.
Investigations found that the amount of oil used may not have adequately covered the heaters.
Workers saw smoke coming from the machine on Aug 8, Aug 28 and Sept 21 last year.
Mr Imam, 34, who goes by one name, is a former employee of Stars Engrg. He found a damaged heating rod and gaskets respectively on Aug 8 and Aug 28, and replaced them.
He had also closed the front and back pipes of the oil compartment on the instruction of Mr Chua Xing Da, the sole director of Stars Engrg.
Workers reported a leak at the corner of the machine on Sept 28 and Oct 12. Mr Chua subsequently told them to weld it shut.
On Jan 8 this year, Mr Chua was again told about smoke coming from the machine.
On Feb 12, a fire broke out at the corner of the machine but was put out by workers.
Mr Chua then told them to weld the four bottom corners of the machine and an additional base plate.
On the morning of Feb 24, at about 8.40am, a fire again broke out at the machine and was put out by the workers. At about 11.15am, Mr Subbaiyan sent a photo of the damaged heater to Mr Lwin Moe Tun, who deleted it after the accident.
The explosion happened at 11.22am and was followed by flash fires. Investigators said the explosion was a chemical one, involving the ignition of oil aerosols.
Mr Imam, who worked for Stars Engrg between 2015 and April this year, was called as the first witness yesterday.
He said he installed the electrical connections for the mixer despite not having any formal electrical work training, and did not refer to any instruction manual, relying instead on the instructions given by Mr Chua.
Mr Imam was not at the workshop on the day of the explosion.
Ms Tan called the incident an "absolute travesty" that should never be repeated.
The first tranche of hearings will last until Oct 8, while the second tranche is expected to be from Nov 15 to Nov 19.