Delivery rider killed in Woodlands lift fire: Death ruled a misadventure

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
March 29, 2023

The death of a man in 2021, after his modified personal mobility device (PMD) burst into flames while he was in a lift, has been ruled a misadventure.

The device had been modified and was powered by an incompatible battery, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda noted in an inquiry into the death of food delivery rider Muhammad Irfan Danish Azhar, 20.

The State Coroner said on Wednesday that the case served as a timely reminder of the dangers of modified PMDs.

He also advised users not to buy such devices. Instead, they should use only those that are UL2272-certified and Land Transport Authority-registered.

The UL2272 certification specifies a set of safety requirements covering the electrical drive train system, including the battery system and electrical components of motorised PMDs.

In earlier proceedings, an investigation officer said Mr Irfan had bought the PMD, which was already modified and non-compliant, on online platform Carousell in December 2020. He then further modified it with a battery of a higher voltage.

According to Mr Irfan’s best friend, the delivery rider had bought the PMD for about $1,800. The friend knew the device had been modified, as he had seen Mr Irfan riding faster than he would on PMDs approved by the authorities.

Shortly before the tragedy, Mr Irfan left his flat on the ninth storey of Block 537 Woodlands Drive 16 at around 11.25pm on June 3, 2021, to help a friend to tow a PMD.

According to witness accounts and closed-circuit television footage, he was alone in the lift with his PMD when flashes of orange light were seen as the lift descended.

An explosion was heard, and Mr Irfan was seen pressing the lift buttons. The lift door opened on the second floor and he fled from the burning lift.

One resident heard someone calling out for his mother in pain and later saw Mr Irfan on fire. Parts of his body were charred and other areas pinkish.

Neighbours put out the lift fire with buckets of water before Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers arrived at the scene.

Police officers found Mr Irfan lying on a staircase landing. He was conscious but told them he could not breathe.

Mr Irfan was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and he died the next day. He had burns on nearly 100 per cent of his body surface area.

SCDF senior fire investigator Muhammad Faizal Mazlan had earlier testified that the PMD’s battery pack did not have a battery management system (BMS), which protects against overcharging or overheating.

“Bypassing the BMS allows the PMD to charge faster, but more current could have been drawn from the battery than expected, possibly leading to overheating,” he said.

In 2021, there were 32 fires involving PMDs and 23 involving power-assisted bicycles.

Mr Irfan’s father was in court when the State Coroner delivered his findings on Wednesday. The father declined to comment when approached after the proceedings ended.

The Straits Times

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