The third incident since September – and second fatal one this month – has critics wondering who’s in charge and why there isn’t more oversight.
On the morning of Monday, March 22, another accident resulting in multiple fatalities and serious injuries occurred at a construction site for the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway (SUKE). A crane collapse led to the deaths of three construction workers, with another three people badly injured.
Conflicting reports have been appearing in local media throughout the day, but it seems that there were six total victims; two workers fell some 120 feet (36.5m) to their deaths when the crane collapsed, and one worker fell and became trapped on the scaffolding above ground level and died from his injuries, with instability of the wreckage preventing the immediate retrieval of the body. The other victims were in a car that was crushed by the falling steel.
Highway concessionaire Projek Lintasan Kota Holdings Sdn Bhd (Prolintas) confirmed that the incident occurred at the SUKE construction site. In a statement, it said three construction workers had died in the incident, including the one who was stuck on the scaffolding.
“The incident is understood to have occurred after one of the components of the crane’s gantry fell, while the cause is still being investigated,” the statement said. “Following the incident, the SUKE emergency response team and Fire and Rescue Department personnel closed off the roads in both directions.”
The collapse occurred just before 8:45am at Puncak Banyan, Persiaran Alam Damai.
One user on the No SUKE Highway Facebook group expressed frustration at what many feared would happen, saying, “There is NO alternative route for residents living along Persiaran Alam Damai! Residents play ‘SUKE roulette’ daily!”
Indeed, this is the third “freak accident” on this under-construction highway since last September, and the second incident involving the SUKE this month. On March 3, five people were trapped in a van travelling on the MRR2 Highway near Bandar Tasik Selatan when a portion of a bridge under construction fell on it after being struck by a trailer carrying heavy machinery. In that incident, two women were killed, and another three people were seriously injured.
Last September, a parapet wall slab came loose and plummeted from the elevated highway, crushing a moving car along the roadway far below. Amazingly, the lucky driver escaped with only minor injuries, as the slab missed her by mere inches.
It appears that the government is now wading into the mix, which is clearly a necessary step at this point. Senior Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof (Works Department) has called for a full investigation into the matter, and expressed anger that roads had not been closed to ensure public safety before heavy construction work was carried out.
“We will suspend or blacklist the contractors if they are found not to have followed the standard operating procedures (SOPs) as required,” Fadillah said, adding, “I want strict action to be taken if the contractor is found to have been negligent in safety, not only of their workmen but also of the public. If the construction has to be halted to conduct the investigation, so be it,” said Fadillah initially.
Apparently, that was the case, because shortly after this statement, a stop-work order was indeed issued, compelling construction to be stopped until a full assessment could be carried out.
“Only rescue work can be conducted. The contractor and their safety team must also come out with suggestions for safety measures if they wish to continue with the project,” Fadillah explained in a follow-up statement, noting that the contractor’s safety plan would be audited.
“The road here will be closed until the rescue efforts have concluded and an alternative route is being located. If no route is found, they [will] have to explain to us how they would ensure safety while works are being conducted.”
In responding to concerns, Fadillah noted that the Works Ministry is only authorised to suspend or blacklist contractors if they are found to have been guilty of negligence or flouting construction requirements.
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