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As part of uncompleted viaduct collapses, eyewitnesses recall loud crash and smell of burnt rubber

SINGAPORE — ​Mr Tan Gek Guang and his family were keeping watch at their grandmother’s wake at Block 346 Tampines Street 33 when their peaceful vigil was pierced by a loud crash on early Friday morning (July 14).

As part of uncompleted viaduct collapses, eyewitnesses recall loud crash and smell of burnt rubber

A worker looks on at the collapsed viaduct structure near the exit to the Pan-Island Expressway off Upper Changi Road East. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Mr Tan Gek Guang and his family were keeping watch at their grandmother’s wake at Block 346 Tampines Street 33 when their peaceful vigil was pierced by a loud crash on early Friday morning (July 14). 

“We heard a loud crash at around 3-plus in the morning,” said the 36-year-old teacher.

The loud bang was followed by what sounded like the sound of metal being dragged across the ground. They also saw white smoke and smelled burnt rubber, but did not know why.

Across the street, part of a highway structure under construction at Upper Changi Road East had collapsed, killing a 31-year-old worker from China and injuring 10 others.

“Initially, we thought it was a lorry accident, it was only after we (saw) the news that we realised what happened,” said Mr Tan.

(Location of the accident site. Click to enlarge. Graphic: Kenneth Choy/TODAY)

A resident living at Block 347, which is opposite the construction site, was watching TV when the accident happened.

“I heard a loud crash and shouts,” said Ms Serena Tong, 45. “I didn’t think anything was amiss because there are usually loud sounds coming from the construction site.”

At least two residents living on the fifth floor of Blk 346 said they heard a loud crash in the wee hours of Friday.

Undergraduate Shriya Sriram, 20, said she was working from home when she heard a loud boom, followed by a metallic screech between 3 and 4am. She took a look outside the window but could not see much and went back to her work.

Ms Sriram said she had safety concerns when she first saw notices informing residents that construction works will take place between 1am and 5am on certain days. "But I assume they knew what they were doing," she added.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said they were alerted at 3.35am to the incident, which occured at a slip road into Pan Island Expressway (PIE) towards the Changi Airport. 

About 60 SCDF officers, including members from the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART), as well as SCDF K9 dogs, conducted a three-hour search and rescue operation.

At 6.45am, the SCDF said all workers at the site had been accounted for. It is unclear how many workers were at the site during the accident.

Workers told TODAY that they had been working on an extra late shift. 

Mr Ke Yun Lin, 58, a site manager for sub-contractor Tongda Construction & Engineering, said he was getting water from the office next to the construction site when he heard “a noise” outside. 

“When I walked out to take a look, the structure was already on the ground”" Mr Ke told TODAY in Mandarin. 

Asked what immediate steps he took in the wake of the accident, Mr Ke said: “I didn't do anything. I was stunned and scared.”

The Land Transport Authority said 11 workers were working on top of the structure during the accident. Among them was Chen Yinchuan, the 31-year-old worker from China who died. Of the 10 injured, six are from Bangladesh, one is from India, and three are from China.

The 10 injured workers were taken to Changi General Hospital. A hospital spokesperson said seven of them had to be admitted, two of whom are receiving intensive care. Three of the injured workers were discharged after receiving treatment. 

A sign listing the official details of the construction project described it as a viaduct from the Tampines Expressway to the PIE (Westbound) and Upper Changi Road East. CPG Consultants is listed as the professional engineer for the project, while Or Kim Peow Contractors is listed as the builder.

A project manager from Or Kim Peow Contractors told TODAY he cannot reveal anything for now as investigations are ongoing.

The project was expected to be completed on Nov 22, 2019. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KENNETH CHENG and WONG PEI TING

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