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The Straits Times
Feb 17, 2023
A 48-year-old mother of four was posing for photos in front of a concrete slab in a forested area along Upper Bukit Timah Road when it broke into two and fell on top of her.
Madam Melita Dollah suffered multiple injuries and her death on Dec 19, 2021 was ruled a misadventure.
During a coroner’s inquiry on Friday, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said Madam Melita, an auxiliary police officer, was hiking with five friends that morning.
The forested area was the site of Kampung Mendoza, which was vacated in the 1980s.
At the time, the area was not fenced off and there were no signposts to inform the public that they were prohibited from entering.
One of Madam Melita’s friends, known only as Nas, led the group as she had been there in the past. They explored the area, taking photos and admiring the scenery.
Around two hours later, the group moved to where the vertical concrete slab was located.
Around 1.5m to 2m high and likely a remnant of a building’s wall, it rested against an earth embankment that was about half the slab’s height.
There was a horizontal crack running across the width of the slab but the group did not notice this.
Madam Melita and her friends posed for photos with the slab.
One photo showed a friend sitting astride the top of the slab, and Madam Melita standing on the ground in front of it, pulling on the seated person’s leg.
As Nas and Madam Melita got ready for a photo together, Madam Melita suggested that Nas stand on the embankment behind the slab while she was in front.
Madam Melita then suggested that Nas put her hands down over the front of the slab so she could grab them.
The pair took the photo as planned and were smiling in it, clearly oblivious to any impending danger, said State Coroner Nakhoda.
According to Nas, Madam Melita pulled her hands and this caused Nas’ body to be pressed against the top edge of the slab.
A photo was taken at the moment the slab broke apart at 12.38pm and fell onto Madam Melita, who was covered by the top half of the slab, leaving only her lower legs exposed.
Nas screamed as she was thrown forward to the ground and the group attended to her.
But their attention was quickly drawn to Madam Melita when they realised she was under the slab.
An unmarked trail and pieces of concrete debris in the forested area along Upper Bukit Timah Road in 2021. Photo: The Straits Times
The group could not lift it as it was too heavy but they found other pieces of concrete and stones and used them to prop up the slab to free her.
An ambulance was called and she was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
Despite resuscitation efforts, she was pronounced dead at 2.34pm.
An autopsy was conducted by Dr Chan Shijia, a consultant forensic pathologist, who certified the cause of death as multiple injuries.
These included a rupture of the right atrium of her heart and fractures to her ribs.
State Coroner Nakhoda said Madam Melita had four children, with the eldest saying the family has accepted that what happened was a freak accident.
The State Coroner said: “This was a very unfortunate case. What had begun as a morning of hiking and enjoying nature ended in tragedy.”
He added that it was all the more tragic as Madam Melita had not been diagnosed with any chronic illnesses. “She was by all accounts a healthy woman who led an active life.”
He noted that hikers should always be wary of dangers and urged them not to stray from designated paths.
After giving his findings, he said: “Finally, I would take this opportunity to pass my sincere condolences to Madam Melita’s four children and her extended family for their loss.”