Patrons in cinema at Nex mall thought loud crack was sound effect when ducting unit fell near them

SINGAPORE – More details and photos are emerging of the incident in a cinema at Nex shopping mall on Sunday (Aug 30) afternoon which left two women injured when a ventilation duct fell from the ceiling.

In an e-mail, Straits Times reader Johnny Quek said his 19-year-old son, Jeffrey, was in Shaw Theatres Hall 6 where the accident happened.

The full-time National Serviceman was with his four male friends when they heard a loud cracking sound in the middle of an intense fight scene in the movie Tenet.

Thinking it was just sound effects, they initially ignored it.

Suddenly, a ducting unit – with its pipe still attached – dislodged from the ceiling and swung towards them. Two of the men were hit on the head by falling debris but were not seriously hurt.

Mr Quek said his son, who is back in camp, had related the incident to him.

“When they looked up, they saw the crack in the ceiling and the ventilation pipe swinging down towards them,” Mr Quek told ST.

While they had escaped with only bruises, others around them were not so lucky.

The group of five, which comprised four full-time NS men and one polytechnic student, immediately swung into action.

One of the men, who is trained in first aid, attended to a young woman who had sustained a head injury.

Mr Jeffrey Quek and his friends also searched under the debris to be sure no one was trapped underneath. The ducting unit is wide enough to cover about four cinema seats.

In photos posted on website Mustsharenews, the dislodged unit can be seen lying across several cinema seats.

Other images show Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) rescuers and paramedics attending to the injured. One patron can be seen in a photo lying on the floor, while another is on a stretcher.

All the cinema halls were later evacuated, with staff noting the names and contact details of patrons for their tickets to be refunded.

A Shaw Theatres spokesman said the duct was dislodged at around 4.45pm. He added that theatre staff attended to the injured customers until paramedics arrived.

“Our priority is to provide support to our injured patrons,” said the spokesman, adding that the company is working with landlord Gold Ridge and the authorities to investigate the incident.

The SCDF said it had received a call for help at around 4.45pm. Two women were taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and SCDF said no one else was injured.

ST understands that one of the injured women may have an internal head injury.

A Building and Construction Authority (BCA) spokesman said that one if its engineers was sent to investigate the incident at 6.30pm.

In the meantime, Shaw Theatres at Nex has been instructed to close its cinemas pending further investigation.

“BCA has also instructed the building owner to appoint a professional engineer to carry out a detailed investigation of the incident, inspect and assess the condition of the other ducts in the cinema, as well as recommend rectification measures to be carried out by the building owner,” he added.

A half-closed shutter at Shaw Theatres Nex Shopping Centre on Aug 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

A patron, who only wanted to be known as Ms Vivian, was watching the Tenet movie with her family in another cinema hall when the accident happened.

“The lights suddenly came on for a few minutes, but the movie was still playing so we thought it was nothing serious. But when the screening suddenly stopped, some people got a bit angry and things were a little chaotic.

“Eventually, the staff told us to evacuate,” said the 24-year-old who works for a bank.

“We’re very shocked by the incident and we probably won’t dare to visit that particular cinema (at Nex) in future, but I really hope the injured are fine,” she added.

ST had arrived at the scene at 7pm on Sunday.

Moviegoers were turned away and given complimentary coupons to watch their shows at another cinema.

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