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Engineer who trained workers on machine use before Tuas fatal blast claims he doesn’t know how to safely operate it

SINGAPORE — An engineer who taught migrant workers how to operate a mixer machine said that he did not really know how to safely operate the machine, which eventually ruptured in an explosion that claimed the lives of three workers.

Engineer Lwin Moe Tun from Stars Engrg leaving the State Courts on Sept 29, 2021.

Engineer Lwin Moe Tun from Stars Engrg leaving the State Courts on Sept 29, 2021.

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  • Stars Engrg’s engineer Lwin Moe Tun testified at an inquiry into a fatal blast that killed his three co-workers
  • He said he relied on his boss for instructions on what to do with a mixer machine
  • State Counsel Kristy Tan said he was “quite happy to not know what happened” as long as the boss knew about the problems
  • The engineer told the court he deleted messages between him and a worker who died in the blast because he panicked
  • State Counsel Tan argued that he was trying to hide something


SINGAPORE — An engineer who taught migrant workers how to operate a mixer machine said that he did not really know how to safely operate the machine, which eventually ruptured in an explosion that claimed the lives of three workers.

Mr Lwin Moe Tun, a Myanmar national who started working at Stars Engrg from 2012, said that he was “relying on” his Singaporean boss Chua Xing Da, sole director of the company, for instructions on how to operate it.

The 31-year-old was testifying before an inquiry committee in court on Thursday (Sept 30). The explosion happened on the morning of Feb 24 at a workshop run by Stars Engrg, which supplies fire protection systems.

The blast and fire at the industrial unit located at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 also injured seven other workers, five of whom had burns that covered 35 to 58 per cent of their body and are still receiving treatment now.

Mr Lwin Moe Tun was a member of the risk management team at the firm. He briefed workers who were appointed to supervise operations at the workshop on the risks specific to the production work at the site.

Speaking through a Burmese interpreter, he said that he did not try to investigate problems relating to the mixer machine each time workers raised them up to him.

When State Counsel Kristy Tan asked him if he had considered that overheating in the machine’s oil jacket was a possible reason one of its heating rods became deformed on Aug 8 last year, he said: “I didn’t think so. I didn’t think of anything… I don’t know what happened.

“I instructed Imam (a Bangladeshi worker who used to supervise operations at the workshop) to go and find Mr Chua and get instructions to change the heater. 

“As far as the machine is concerned, we follow Mr Chua’s instructions.”

When State Counsel Tan pressed on, pointing out that he was “quite happy to not know what happened as long as Mr Chua knows about the problem”, Mr Lwin Moe Tun said that he instructed the worker to get instructions from the boss precisely because he was “concerned”.


In another instance, Mr Lwin Moe Tun first witnessed white smoke coming out from the oil jacket of the machine as early as August or September last year.

It would last for about five minutes before the machine’s heaters were switched off.

By January, the smoke got “a lot heavier” and lasted 10 minutes before the machine’s heaters were turned off, he stated.

Mr Lwin Moe Tun told the committee that he recognised the white smoke as oil vapours in October last year, when a worker alerted him to a leakage at the oil jacket by sending him a video of it.

Yet, he did not do anything to stop the machine’s use.

When asked about this, he again said: “I was waiting on the boss’ instructions to do something.” 

His boss, Mr Chua, knew about the leak and told the inquiry committee earlier that he did not think it was a serious problem.

Mr Lwin Moe Tun also said on Thursday that he did not think the mixer machine was unsafe to use despite a small fire on Feb 12 linked to it.

He was asked about the mixer machine’s use because the bulk of the damage after the explosion was to the machine, which was used to make fire clay that goes into the production of fire-rated insulation wrap.

It was bought online via a vendor listed on Alibaba’s e-commerce site and installed at the workshop in June last year.

Workers alerted their superiors to oil leaks, heater damage, smoke and small fires associated with the machine from as early as August last year.

Three workers later died from the blast after suffering 90 per cent burns: Subbaiyan Marimuthu, 38, from India, as well as Anisuzzaman Md, 29, and Shohel Md, 23, who were both from Bangladesh.


Mr Lwin Moe Tun was questioned about why he tried to conceal correspondences between him and Marimuthu, the workshop supervisor he was in contact with throughout the morning of the blast.

The engineer deleted the phone text messages and photos from his and Marimuthu’s phones shortly after the explosion.

They included a photo that Marimuthu had sent him less than 10 minutes before the explosion set off at 11.22am.

It showed the damaged heater of the mixer machine and it had a green tape around its wiring. 

Mr Lwin Moe Tun said in a statement presented to the committee that he did not know who had taped the wires.

“At that time when Marimuthu sent me the photo, I thought that he was going to check the connectivity of the damaged heater with the wiring taped together.”

However, State Counsel Tan insisted that he “immediately knew what was going on” because he had replied to Marimuthu at 11.32am, saying, “Ok let me know ASAP.”

This message was deleted along with the photo. 

She added: “You deleted these messages because you know that they show exactly what I had said — that you knew workers were checking if the damaged heaters could still be used. 

“You felt guilty for not having stopped them, and that’s why you deleted to cover up for the fact that you didn’t stop them.”

Mr Lwin Moe Tun disagreed, pointing out that the workers were checking the condition of the cables based on Mr Chua’s instructions.

When Stars Engrg’s lawyer Thong Chee Kun asked why he deleted the photo and the messages, Mr Lwin Moe Tun said that he simply “panicked” because he was thinking that he was the last person Marimuthu was in contact with before the blast.


The inquiry committee heard that there was an inconsistency in part of Mr Lwin Moe Tun's and Mr Chua’s testimonies.

Mr Chua had testified that on the day of the fatal incident, he first spoke to Mr Lwin Moe Tun at about 12pm, before he reached the Tuas site upon finding out about the blast.

Mr Lwin Moe Tun, on the other hand, claimed to have called Mr Chua at about 11.35am or 11.40am to inform him that Marimuthu was going to change the heater.

When State Counsel Tan suggested that he called past 12pm to inform Mr Chua of the fire, Mr Lwin Moe Tun flip-flopped in his replies, saying he was not sure, then saying he agreed, and then disagreeing, but without elaborating.

Related topics

fire death Tuas migrant worker Committee of Inquiry workplace safety

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