3 workers tried to steal electric cables in attempt that caused fourth man to die by electrocution

Samuel Devaraj
The Straits Times
February 7, 2023

Three electrical technicians and a driver, who were sent to work at a building whose occupant was moving to another location the next day, decided to steal electric cables from it.

In the process of stealing the cables, 27-year-old driver Murugan Kothalam was electrocuted and died.

On Monday, the three technicians each pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted theft.

Ezhilarasan Nagarajan, 26, and Radhakrishnan Elavarasan, 28, were fined $1,000, while Balasubramaniyan Nivas, 29, who had another charge taken into consideration during his sentencing, was fined $1,500.

Deputy Public Prosecutor V. Jesudevan said that Elavarasan and Nivas, who were working for Alltech Systems, arrived at the Police National Service Department (PNSD) building in Still Road at or about 10.30am on Oct 15, 2020.

They were there to dismantle the distribution board boxes, hose reel boxes and projector stands from the main and annex buildings as directed by their supervisor.

After they arrived, Elavarasan and Nivas, who knew they were not supposed to cut or remove any cables, proceeded to the main building to start work, unescorted by security.

While there, Nivas noticed there were a lot of loose electric cables hanging from the ceiling and decided to steal them.

He told Elavarsan his plan that included selling the cables, and the two men began to remove them from the ceiling by pulling and cutting them.

At around 10.30am, Nagarajan and Kothalam, who were employed by STIE, were instructed by their supervisor to pass the other two men a wrench needed to remove the hose reel box.

After passing the wrench, Nagarajan met Kothalam, who had gone to the PNSD annex building and found cables hanging from the ceiling.

The two men began pulling and cutting the electric cables as Elavarasan and Nivas came to check on them.

Nagarajan and Elavarasan then tidied the cables by tying them in bundles and went to the main building to remove the hose reel.

Meanwhile, Kothalam and Nivas continued removing the electric cables in the PNSD annex building.

At about 1pm, Nivas heard a loud crashing sound and discovered Kothalam in one of the rooms standing on a ladder with his upper body above a ceiling panel. He was not moving and the ladder was shaking.

Suspecting that Kothalam had been electrocuted, Nivas kicked the ladder and Kothalam fell to the ground.

Nivas alerted the other two men and tried resuscitating Kothalam.

Elavarasan called the Singapore Civil Defence Force for assistance and Kothalam was taken to Changi General Hospital, where he died later that day.

A coroner’s inquiry into Kothalam’s death that was held on Aug 5, 2021 found that the cause of death was electrocution.

In court on Monday, the lawyers representing each offender asked the judge for a low fine for their clients and cited their modest means.

For attempted theft, they could have been jailed for up to three years, fined or both.

The Straits Times

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