SINGAPORE: A 20-year-old food delivery rider on his way to meet a friend died of burn injuries and smoke inhalation after his modified personal mobility device (PMD) caught fire in a lift.
The PMD was already modified when it was purchased from Carousell and was further modified by the deceased, Muhammad Irfan Danish Azhar, a coroner’s court heard on Tuesday (Dec 27).
At the opening of the inquiry into Irfan’s death, the court heard that Irfan lived on the ninth floor at Block 537, Woodlands Drive 16 with his father, his stepmother and his young siblings.
On Jun 3, 2021, Irfan left his flat and took a lift down towards the first floor with his PMD.
Based on witness accounts and footage from town council and police cameras, a glowing light was observed in the lift shaft as the lift descended to the first storey.
A bright light came from the PMD and it exploded. Irfan dropped the device and pressed the lift buttons, trying to exit the lift.
The intensity of the fire grew as it spread to the contents of the lift and smoke obscured the view shown in the closed-circuit television camera.
The lift door opened at the second floor, believed to be one of the buttons Irfan pressed, and he fled the lift.
Neighbours heard loud noises, accompanied by smoke and flashes of orange light along the common corridor, with black smoke seeping into their units slowly.
One witness heard someone in pain calling out for his mother and opened the door to see Irfan walking slowly. He was on fire and parts of his body were charred.
Neighbours put out the lift fire with buckets of water before the Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived, and police officers rushed to the scene.
They found Irfan in a supine position at the staircase landing between the second and first floors. He was covered in ashes and severely burnt.
He was still conscious at the time and told the officers that he could not breathe.
The badly charred PMD was found in the lift and Irfan was taken to hospital. He was examined and found to have sustained severe near-full-body burn injuries and smoke inhalation.
Plastic surgery teams from two hospitals discussed the case and found that it was not recommended to transfer Irfan to another hospital.
He died a day later, with his final cause of death determined to be severe burn injuries, with smoke inhalation. Post-mortem findings said he suffered extensive burns involving 95 per cent of his total body surface area.
THE BEST FRIEND’S ACCOUNT
According to Irfan’s best friend, Irfan bought the dark blue “Fido” PMD in late 2020 from Carousell for about S$1,800.
When the friend saw the PMD, he immediately knew it had already been modified. He saw Irfan riding faster than he would on PMDs approved by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), related the investigating officer on the case.
Irfan’s best friend noticed that every part of the PMD had been modified, and Irfan had told him that it was already modified when he bought it.
Further investigations revealed that Irfan had further modified the PMD after buying it.
According to Irfan’s best friend, he had just called Irfan that night minutes before the fire and asked Irfan to help tow another friend’s PMD.
Irfan agreed and his friend heard a sound that he guessed was Irfan placing his delivery bag outside his house before the call ended.
According to findings from LTA, the PMD involved in the fire is believed to be non-compliant and unregistered.
Irfan had previous PMDs that were deregistered as they were not certified according to LTA’s safety standards.
Based on the evidence gathered, Irfan’s death was likely due to the fire that ignited from the PMD, said the investigating officer.
“Prior to his death, he was known to have a vast interest in PMDS, and according to his friends, he owned a modified PMD and had modified his battery to a higher voltage,” said the officer.
He added that Irfan has several records with LTA for owning a modified PMD.
According to his stepmother, Irfan would typically charge the PMD for four to five hours at home after his deliveries.
SCDF’S LEAD FIRE INVESTIGATOR FINDINGS
The lead fire investigator on the case testified that the most probable scenarios leading to the fire include accumulative damage to the lithium ion battery pack and overheating of components.
It is believed that an electrical anomaly occurred within the battery pack.
There were two battery packs for the PMD, a 15aH battery pack that came with the PMD when Irfan bought it, and a 24aH battery pack he purchased on his own. The 24aH battery pack was the one used that day, the court heard.
The battery pack had no battery management system, which can ensure that there is no overcharging or overheating.
When asked by State Coroner Adam Nakhoda why someone would want to bypass a battery management system, the investigator said this would probably have been done to allow for a faster charge.
If such a device is charged faster and does not have a battery management system, it can increase the likelihood of overheating, he said.
The motor of the PMD was also modified and allowed the user to ride it at a faster speed.
The investigator said this is believed to be the first case of a PMD catching fire in a lift in Singapore.
The inquiry continues.