Plumber fined S$4,500 for firing parachute signal flare at Ang Mo Kio hawker centre

Plumber fined S$4,500 for firing parachute signal flare at Ang Mo Kio hawker centre

Channel NewsAsia·2017-12-14 16:50

Aw Chong Loong at the State Courts on Monday (Nov 20). 

SINGAPORE: A 50-year-old man was fined S$4,500 on Thursday (Dec 14) for setting off a flare in the direction of a hawker centre at Ang Mo Kio, sparking a public commotion and a 30-hour police operation.

Aw Chong Loong, a plumber, had fired the parachute signal flare out of curiosity, after finding it in a pile of knick-knacks he had collected over the years.

He was not wearing his glasses, so he could not read the writing on the flare before he pulled the string and pressed the button, setting it off at about 4.40pm on Sep 26.

When the flare started to emit white smoke with a “whizzing” sound, Aw, alarmed, returned to his family’s medical hall nearby and closed the door.

Aw did not know that he had fired the flare, which flew into a hawker centre at Block 226C, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.

Witnesses described seeing a “glaring white light” and a “huge ball of fire", Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang said. The small fire was put out by a passer-by using a fire extinguisher. No one was injured and no damage was caused, Mr Yang said.

An operation to determine what had happened lasted 30 hours, and 65 officers from four departments were activated, including 39 officers from the Emergency Response Team and 10 from the Bomb and Explosive Investigation Squad.

It was when he noticed a commotion at the hawker centre and spotted police officers in the vicinity that Aw realised that the ruckus may have been caused by the flare he had unknowingly fired, Mr Yang said.

Aw was seen rearranging his plumbing supplies outside his family’s shop, and when questioned, told the police he did not witness the incident. He owned up the next day, when the police called him after identifying him as a possible suspect via CCTV footage of the incident. 

The court heard Aw had a habit of picking up discarded items, and would keep them in a store room at the back of his family’s shop. He had been cleaning out the store room on Sep 26, in preparation to move out, when he found the flare covered in dust. He had taken it outside to inspect it more closely when he inadvertently fired it.

Aw, who did not have a lawyer, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one charge of negligence for failing to ascertain the nature of the flare – an explosive substance – and setting it off in the direction of a public place.

He could have been sentenced to a year’s jail and/or fined up to S$5,000.

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Singapore Ang Mo Kio Fine