Man fined for unknowingly setting off a flare that sent a fireball hurling into a hawker centre

Man fined for unknowingly setting off a flare that sent a fireball hurling into a hawker centre

Coconuts Singapore·2017-12-16 04:05

Chaos and panic erupted at an Ang Mo Kio hawker center on the afternoon of Sept 26 as patrons and stall owners suddenly encountered a sparkling, smoky ball of light shooting through the eatery. The mystery missile-like item landed under a table and exploded into flames before hawkers put it out with fire extinguishers.

The conundrum was solved days later — turns out, someone had unknowingly set off a parachute signal flare while it was being pointed in the direction of the hawker center at Block 226C along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. Aw Chong Loong has since been fined S$4,500 after pleading guilty to committing an act so negligent as to be likely to cause hurt or injury, according to The Straits Times.

To be fair, the 50-year-old didn’t know that it was a flare, neither did he realize the commotion he caused until later on. A collector of discarded items for the past 30 years, Aw had been clearing some space at the back of his family’s medical hall located at the same block when he noticed a dusty cylindrical object on a shelf.

Curious, he took the item outside for a closer inspection but didn’t read what was written on it. He started taking the item apart, opening its caps, and noticed a rectangular button and a pin attached to a string on its side. He pressed the button, but nothing happened.

With the object pointed towards the hawker center, Aw pulled back at the string while pressing the button — causing a lot of smoke and a whizzing sound, but no flames. Alarmed at the object, he immediately went back into the shop.

Little did he know that he had actually activated a parachute signal flare, and the flaming projectile shot straight into the hawker center. A hawker was said to have witnessed a “huge ball of fire about the height of (his) knee” appearing near his stall, according to the prosecution.

It was only later on that Aw realized the commotion outside his family’s shop might have been due to the unknown object he set off. But when police scoured the vicinity of the hawker center to find out the source of the fire, Aw claimed that he didn’t see anything. ST reported that he did not admit his part in the incident at first because he did not want people to see him being arrested or know him as the one who caused the whole brouhaha.

But it didn’t take long for the jig to be up — CCTV footage and extensive ground inquiries identified Aw as a possible suspect, and he came clean the day after the incident.

For his offense, the man could have been jailed for up to a year and/or fined up to S$5,000.


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Singapore Ang Mo Kio Fire