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Gabrielle Chan, BNB Diviyadhaarshini and Shintaro Tay
The Straits Times
May 11, 2023
Two workers had a close call on Thursday morning after the gondola they were in tipped sideways at the top of a 15-storey Housing Board block in Boon Lay Drive.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it received a call for assistance at Block 199 Boon Lay Drive at 8.10am.
In response to queries, the SCDF said that a worker was seen on the ledge on the 15th storey beside a lopsided gondola, and he was brought in safely through the windows of the closest unit by its officers.
The SCDF added that the other worker got to safety through the windows of a unit on the 14th storey before it arrived.
Both workers were taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
When contacted later, a spokesman for the West Coast Town Council (WCTC) said the workers had been discharged and given medical leave.
He added: “The town council and the contractor are following up to ensure their well-being.”
The WCTC spokesman said the support system for the gondola set up by the contractor on the roof had given way, causing it to tilt.
He noted that HDB had inspected the building and confirmed that it was structurally safe.
The workers were contracted to carry out repairs and redecoration work on Block 199, as well as other blocks in the vicinity.
A resident living in the opposite block, who wanted to be known as only Madam Kong, 70, said the workers started very early on Thursday morning.
She told The Straits Times in Mandarin: “When I saw the gondola, I told my maid that what they were doing was very dangerous. The moment I said that, I saw the whole gondola fall.”
She added that there were two people on the gondola at the time. A few seconds later, she saw debris fall from the top of the building.
“The whole thing scared me, my heart jumped and I screamed,” Madam Kong said.
She added that one of the workers almost fell but managed to hold on to the wall and stabilise himself.
She said residents on the 14th storey opened windows, and one worker managed to get in. The other worker managed to climb onto the ledge on the 15th floor.
The resident of the 14th storey unit where the worker got in through the window said she was working when she heard a noise coming from her younger brother’s room.
“When I reached my brother’s room, he was already opening the grill for the worker to hold on to, and the worker was stepping on the ledge to balance himself,” said the 25-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Ms Kam.
She added that when she saw the worker, he had one foot on the window ledge and the other entangled with a cable still attached to the gondola.
Ms Kam, an administrative assistant, said she and her brother helped the worker get in and gave him water.
Ms Yanni, 22, a resident of a unit on the 15th storey, said she was showering at the time of the incident. She said that a worker was brought to safety by the SCDF through her windows.
Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who is an MP for West Coast GRC, said that the WCTC team was on site.
The WCTC spokesman said that the town council’s representatives, HDB and the contractor were there to assess the situation, ensure public safety and recover the gondola.
He added: “Our priority is the safety and well-being of residents and the workers.”
Contacted, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said its engineers found localised damage to a stretch of the concrete roof parapet of the affected building, which was partially supporting a gondola used for painting the building’s facade.
The engineers have determined that no other parts of the building was damaged in the incident and it remains structurally safe.
“BCA has directed the West Coast Town Council to stop the gondola operations at the other block with similar temporary gondola supports,” the BCA spokesman said. “The building owner will be required to engage a Professional Engineer to carry out a detailed investigation of both blocks and recommend any necessary rectification works.”