Friday 16 October 2015

Shanmugam to help family of boy who fell from Yishun flat

By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2015

Law Minister K. Shanmugam has said that there may need to be legal recourse for the family of a four-year-old boy who fell to his death from a Yishun flat last week.

The boy was alone at home with his two-year-old sister when he fell from the ninth-floor unit last Tuesday. Their grandmother had not yet arrived to look after them when their mother left for work.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Home Affairs Minister and MP for Nee Soon GRC, said on Facebook yesterday the tragic accident could have been prevented.

Tragedy that could have been avoided--------------------On 6 Oct 2015, a 4 year-old boy fell to his death in Yishun....
Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The minister had visited the family on Tuesday. They had told him the contractor had not installed window grilles as promised.

"There must be steps taken against such contractors - if what the father says is correct. We must help the family to get legal recourse," said Mr Shanmugam. "It won't bring back the child, but there has to be some justice done. I have told (him) we will help find a lawyer for the family."

The victim's 40-year-old father told The Straits Times yesterday that the contractor had said the house would be in "move-in condition" by Sept 22. The family of six had to move in around then as they had to hand over their previous flat in Sembawang to the next owner.

But the contractor, Thian Boon Design & Renovation, said there had been a verbal agreement that renovations would not be completed by the time the family moved in.

A partner of the company, who wanted to known only as Mr Lau, said: "(The family) confirmed our services quite late and we had only two weeks to renovate. So I told him some work can be done only after they moved in."

But the child's father, who declined to be named, said the lights had not even been fixed when they moved in, and he had to engage a handyman to do the remaining work. The family terminated the contractor's services on Oct 4.

However, veteran lawyer Amolat Singh said it would be an uphill task in pinning liability on the contractor. "Having moved in, they should have been aware of the dangers, and taken steps to mitigate the known dangers," he said.

The four-year-old was the third of four children aged between two and 10.

His father, who works in the security industry, said: "It was supposed to be a new beginning for us... Sometimes, we would still call his name, and his sister was asking for him.

"He shared the same birthday with my second son and we usually celebrated two birthdays together. Now, it's going to be just one."

The dad of the four-year-old boy who fell to his death accepts blame but says the tragedy could have been avoided if the...
Posted by The New Paper on Thursday, October 15, 2015

Too early to set new laws against negligent parents: K Shanmugam
In the wake of a fatal fall in Yishun, the Law and Home Affairs Minister says it is a parent's primary responsibility to take care of their young children, whether or not it is legally set out.
By Kenneth Lim, Channel NewsAsia, 17 Oct 2015

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has said that it is too early to introduce new laws against negligent parents, after a four-year-old boy fell to his death from the window of his ninth-floor flat while his parents were away.

The family's contractors had failed to install grilles on the windows, but the spotlight also fell on the family, who have accepted responsibility for having left the child alone. In a Facebook post on Thursday, Mr Shanmugam said he would help the family find legal recourse. Grassroots leaders have since helped the family install a set of window grilles.

On Friday at a private event, Mr Shanmugam told Channel 8 News: "I think it's a bit early to have knee jerk reactions. Certainly we should monitor the situation, (but) I think the primary responsibility (is that) parents (have) to make sure their children who are very young are taken care of. That's a responsibility anywhere, whether it's legally set out or not."

Mr Shanmugam added that he did not want to comment on whether he thought the family's parents were responsible in this "particular tragic situation", even though "they had said to the media that they were also responsible for what has happened".

The father of the boy who fell, who only wanted to be known as Mr Z, said: "When we started moving in, the grille wasn't installed. As I have four kids at home, the grille is considered a main concern for me. So attempts were made to confirm with him when the grilles were (going to be) installed. He even gave me a date on when it will be installed, but up to the incident, it still wasn't done."

While he said that leaving the boy at home unattended was a "terrible mistake", Mr Z said the tragedy could have been averted if the contractor had installed the grilles as promised.

"I hope that this type of contractors would be put to task for what they did to us," said Mr Z. "Some contractors are taking two or three jobs to get money, but it's people like us at home who are affected by the renovation. (In our case), it led to the death of our son."

He added: "We are not blaming it fully on the contractor, but to me, if he had fulfilled all that was obligated in the contract, this thing might not have happened."

But the contractor said he had planned to install the grilles after painting the flat to avoid dirtying the unit. He also claimed he had manpower issues. 

"Personally I'm very sorry about what happened," said Mr Lau, who is the owner of Thian Boon Design & Renovation. "But I'm not feeling sorry because of what we did. Nobody wanted this accident. First and foremost family members and parents are responsible for a child's safety. But I also don't want to say too much on the incident."

Mr Lau also said he will visit the family soon and help them with their problems.

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