Man who caused fire in Tampines flat suffered from depression
While smoking in his 10th-floor flat in Tampines, a man dropped a lit cigarette onto the bedroom floor which was covered in kerosene.
This caused a fire to engulf the flat with about 180 people in neighbouring units evacuated as a precaution.
Loh Fu Wah, a 63-year-old retiree, fell unconscious during the fire and was rescued from the flat by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters and taken to hospital.
As a result of the fire on Jan 28, 2022, Loh’s flat and the common corridor outside the unit were damaged.
On Tuesday, Loh pleaded guilty to one charge of causing a dangerous fire which causes damage to property belonging to another person or the Government.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Derek Ee said that Tampines Town Council estimated the damage and costs of repair to be $20,000. Loh’s family also paid more than $14,000 to repair his unit.
On Jan 28, 2022, Loh had poured kerosene in his living and bedroom room and used newspapers to scrub the floors. He was alone in the unit then.
While cleaning up, Loh consumed alcohol and felt depressed and lonely, DPP Ee said.
Since April 2020, Loh was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He was assessed to have depression due to the condition and started taking anti-depressants.
DPP Ee said when Loh was last seen at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) outpatient clinic in November 2021, he was noted to have a persistent low mood.
In an IMH medical report issued by Dr Ang Ren Xuan, the doctor expressed the view that there was a contributory link between Loh’s mental illness and the alleged offence, but added that he was not of unsound mind.
DPP EE said that at 10.15pm on the day of the fire, Loh sent a message to his family WhatsApp chat saying: “Boys, I’ve always loved you but things had to end this way. Goodbye.”
At 10.29pm, Loh, who was resting in his bedroom, lit a cigarette.
While smoking the cigarette, Loh felt tired and dropped it onto the floor which had kerosene.
DPP Ee said that within minutes, the unit caught fire.
Between 10.29pm and 10.47pm, SCDF and the police received more than 30 calls to the police that a fire had broken out in the Tampines flat.
DPP Ee said: “When SCDF arrived at the unit, the main door to the unit was locked and SCDF had to break open the main door to enter the unit.”
On Tuesday, Loh, who was unrepresented, told District Judge Eugene Teo: “I just want to plead for leniency. That’s all.”
He was accompanied by his sister, who declined to speak with The Straits Times.
District Judge Eugene Teo called for a report to assess Loh’s suitability for a mandatory treatment order. He also told Loh to attend any and all appointments required by IMH.
Addressing Loh, the judge said: “I want you during your sessions to be forthcoming with them about what you are going through about your anxieties and what you are concerned about.
“You have never been in prison before that is why we are trying to keep you out. That is why we are asking you to go for this assessment, so cooperate during this period.”
He added that Loh has some “reconciling to do with your family members”.
The case has been adjourned to Feb 14 for sentencing.
• Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
• Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
• Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
• Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
• Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
• Community Health Assessment Team 6493-6500/1
• TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
• TOUCH Care Line (for seniors, caregivers): 6804-6555
• Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800
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