SINGAPORE: A toddler who died after being crushed by a mirror at a shop in Jewel Changi Airport was standing in front of it when her brother and a family friend squeezed out from behind the mirror, causing it to fall.
This was revealed on the first day of the coroner’s inquiry into the death of Chinese national Lai Jiaxin, who was a year old at the time of the incident on Aug 23, 2019.
The court heard that she had come to Singapore with her six-year-old brother, her mother Mrs Lai, her grandmother and some family friends for a holiday earlier that week on Aug 19.
On Aug 23, Mrs Lai checked in for their flight back home to Fujian, China.
While waiting for the flight, they went shopping and headed to the Urban Revivo boutique in Jewel Changi Airport.
Footage shown in court showed the two families entering the shop. The group comprised Mrs Lai and her mother, Jiaxin and her six-year-old brother, Mrs Lai’s friend, her friend’s mother, and her friend’s six-year-old son and one-year-old daughter.
Mrs Lai went into the dressing room to try on clothes with her friend, while both their mothers stayed outside and cared for their respective grandchildren.
Footage showed the children tottering about the shop, with the grandmothers trying to catch up with them.
Jiaxin’s brother and the family friend’s son squeezed in a space between a 1.99m-tall mirror and the wall.
Jiaxin was shown standing in front of the mirror. The boys then squeezed out of the space behind the mirror, with Jiaxin’s brother getting out first.
As the second boy stepped out, the mirror toppled forward and onto the girl. Immediately, the family members and staff stepped forward to help, with three people lifting the 116.5kg mirror.
The 0.83m-tall girl was bleeding profusely from her nose and mouth. She was taken to hospital but pronounced dead later that day after about an hour of resuscitation efforts.
CAUSE OF DEATH: HEAD INJURY
An autopsy found that the cause of death was a head injury. Jiaxin was found to have suffered injuries to her head, skull, brain, neck, upper and lower limbs, with her airway and lungs affected from the impact.
The court heard that none of the staff had approached the grandmothers on the behaviour of the children, and that no one had previously tried to squeeze into the space behind the mirror as it was “very small” and not meant for a normal-sized person.
Urban Revivo said it had never had issues with the mirrors. There were about six to seven such mirrors in the store, but all were removed after the incident.
The standing mirror had been designed by a team based in Guangzhou, China, specifically for the store in Singapore. No other store carries such a design.
They were designed to allow greater flexibility for the mirrors to be moved around the store, due to the changing fashion designs.
The mirror’s design had gone through various rounds of vetting and was approved by the head of design in Guangzhou, the court heard.
Safety was one of the aspects considered by the team and there were no issues reported after the store’s opening in Singapore.
The mirrors were installed according to Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority’s regulations, and the guidelines were very stringent as Jewel Changi Airport was a landmark, the court heard.
STEPS TAKEN AFTER INCIDENT
After the incident, Urban Revivo conducted training for staff to watch out for unattended or rowdy children and to remind parents to be more cautious.
Urban Revivo also put up signs reminding parents not to leave their children unattended and installed new mirrors that are screwed down.
A mandatory safety checklist was implemented in all Singapore stores, to be completed daily, and the general manager has to perform periodic safety checks on stores.
“Testimonies from the next-of-kin and CCTV footage strongly suggest that the incident happened due to a child’s unattended actions,” said the investigating officer, who read out the report into the case.
“As the children were of a young age, they could not have understood the consequences of their actions,” she said.
The police are of the view that Jiaxin’s demise “was a misadventure” and do not suspect any foul play.
Jiaxin’s family did not attend court on Thursday as they are in China.
State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said she would deliver written findings on Apr 15.