Chia Ti Lik’s Blog

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Questions Upon The Loss of a Big Toe (Letter to ST)

Letter to ST Forum Page (Unpublished) – Questions upon the loss of a big toe


Dear All


I had on noon of 6th November 2006, written a stinging letter to the Straits Times Forum Page in an attempt to provoke some critical thinking on the part of the relevant authorities on the escalator incident which resulted in the loss of a toddler’s right big toe.


The injury was a serious one as it physically impaired the toddler for the whole of her life! Henceforth and such incidents must be prevented!


The Straits Times Forum Page again failed to publish my stinging letter. Coincidentally, the reporter who reported on the incident produced a further report which seemed to point blame on the rubber footwear of the toddler.


The report appearing on today’s Straits Times differs from the yesterday’s in 4 areas:


1.                  Expert points his finger to footwear (significant increase in “side entrapments”);

2.                  toe was found 2 ½ hours later => too late for surgical reattachment as opposed to too badly damaged to be reattached as reported yesterday.

3.                  Safety strips and PVC bristles as a possible solution;

4.                  Sembawang Town Council saying that it will install more safety switches.

But was the lack of safety switches the cause of the loss of the toe? J

If one pays close attention, the “rubber shoe” of the toddler seems very much different from the “rubber clog” which the expert Mr. C. C. Toh had used to demonstrate the culpability of such footwear.


My sources tell me that the Mainstream Chinese Press LianHe Zaobao had in today’s issue carried another report of a similar accident in which the SCDF performed with dramatic improvement in response time of “immediate response and freeing the 2yr old in 10 mins” for a Tampines Mall incident.

The combined effect of these reports essentially direct the finger pointing away from the Town Council. Escalator supplier, escalator manufacturer and the SCDF.


As I have said previously ad nauseam, I am a proponent of free speech and critical thinking and I will not be silenced by elements of the mainstream press or whoever and all the more so if I have very pertinent questions have yet be answered.


The essence of my concern is this: How can we be sure that our SCDF, Town Councils will be able to handle the next escalator or elevator (lift) accident?


To cut the long story short, I hereby now append my letter dated 6th November 2006 to ST Forum Page (Unpublished) to fire up some critical thinking.


“Letter to ST Forum Page – Questions upon the loss of a big toe.


I refer to the report on the front page of the Straits Times of 6th November 2006 on the Mall Escalator Accident reported by Ms Tanya Fong.


It was revealed that the paramedics arrived at the scene 25 mins after the incident. I am unaware of when the emergency call was actually made as it is not apparent from the report. The paramedics contacted the Sembawang Town Council 10 mins after and the technician arrived only after a further 45 mins.


It must be noted that the technician’s arrival did not seem to speed things up more as the toddler’s clog and severed toe were only found 1 hour and 15 mins after the technician’s arrival.


In so far as the matter is deemed as an accident, and that such an accident has happened twice, I now request the relevant authorities to explain what has been done since August when the first of such incidents happened. In short, what has been done since then to make escalators safer for young children in order to ensure as safe as possible a passage and commute by our citizens in our own country.


In the light of the latest incident, I further request the relevant authorities to disclose what further steps they intend to take in order to avoid the occurrence of and to mitigate the damaging effects of such accidents if they ever occur again.


The authorities must understand that the incident resulted in the loss of the big toe of a young toddler, little appendage which from my understanding is crucial to a person’s ability to balance her body in day to day life. This incident caused permanent disability to a young girl, and a loss which will follow her throughout her life.


The establishment prides itself for having run a tight ship and possessing the requisite foresight to deal with potential problems. This incident provides an excellent opportunity for the relevant authorities to tighten up their loose ends, if any.


In this incident, there exists a question of potential liability on the part of the relevant authority for the injury and disability caused by the escalator. However, this is a separate issue. In any event, to strive for improvement, steps must be taken forward.


The first incident caused no injury. The second and latest incident caused the loss of a toddler’s big toe. I shiver to imagine the outcome of the next incident. I hereby stress to the relevant authorities that the lesson to be drawn from these incidents would be to take these incidents as warnings of a potentially more damaging mishap in the future.


In this case, I presume that the SCDF officers present at the scene found the toddler’s toe once the steel stair panels were removed. I do not question the competence of the SCDF officers whom I presume are properly trained.


However, despite being properly trained by SCDF’s standards, the officers were obviously ill placed to deal with the situation and they were rendered hopelessly ineffective. We will recall that in this incident, they had to depend entirely on another person, the escalator technician, who not a member of their emergency service to complete his task before they could start theirs.


The time taken to contact the technician, for him to respond, for him to arrive at the site and perform his task of unlocking the steel stair panels was a staggering 130 mins or 2 hours and 10 mins. This was more than enough for a soccer match to run its full course, go into extra time and sudden death.


Reading Tanya Fong’s report of the incident left me with a sick feeling in the stomach, a surreal pain in my right toe and several questions in mind.


The toe was severed for almost 3 hours before medical staff evaluated it. Would it have been possible to save Shiyr’s toe if it was found earlier, packed in ice and rushed to the hospital? Would a faster response time have helped?


If the escalator so damaged the toe beyond rescue that it would not have mattered if the toe were found earlier. Then my question would be: if escalators have been proven to be so damaging a contraption. What can and will be done to make them safer?


Furthermore, as Singapore is densely populated and jam-packed with multi-storied buildings where escalators and lifts abound islandwide, would it not be an apt time now to set up a properly trained quick response medical and rescue team competent enough to tear apart an escalator / lift system to deal with such accidents involving our escalators and (I shiver to venture) our lifts?


Members of the public, both foreigners and citizens alike would be keen to know of the plans and measures intended to be taken. I await eagerly the substantive response from the relevant authorities.

Chia Ti Lik”


Dear All As of this morning 8th November 2006, the ST Forum Page has published the letter in its edited version.  

It has also been brought to my attention this morning that:

1.                  the Chinese newspaper which reported on the 3rd incident yesterday was Lianhe Zaobao;

2.                  another Chinese newspaper which seemed to point the finger at the rubber “Croc” shoes was “My Paper”; and

3.                  the ST Forum Page has published my letter this morning, albeit in an edited version Hence, apologies to ST Forum Page for jumping the gun. However, my questions and concerns raised in my original letter and posting here remain. Hence, this update instead of an edited posting.

Cheers to All and Freedom of Speech

Ti Lik


November 2, 2006 - Posted by | Politics

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