Waiter pushed colleague, causing extensive burns after hot water spilled on her

SINGAPORE – Unhappy with his colleague for refusing to help him clean up a mess, a waiter pushed the woman so hard that it sparked a chain of events which ended with Ms Neo Xinjie suffering extensive first- and second-degree burns to about 40 per cent of her body.

On Thursday (Nov 29), Mohammad Firdaus Mohammad Nazeer, 19, pleaded guilty in court to causing hurt to the 24-year-old woman by performing a rash act. He also admitted to an unrelated rioting charge.

The court heard that Firdaus, who was on probation for earlier theft-related offences, was working with Ms Neo in a Swensen’s outlet at Nex shopping mall in Serangoon Central on June 23, 2017.

At around noon, Firdaus spilled a packet of milk in the kitchen. He asked Ms Neo to help mop up the mess as he had to serve food to customers.

But she refused. Upset, he pushed his colleague so hard that her shoulder hit a hot water urn in the kitchen.

It toppled as she fell backwards, and the urn spilled its contents all over Ms Neo, who yelled out in pain.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kong Kuek Foo said that the victim was taken to a clinic at the mall but was then referred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she was found to have sustained “extensive first- and second-degree burns with some blistering”.

Ms Neo was later referred to the Singapore General Hospital’s plastic surgery department and her wounds eventually healed. However, during her review in October last year, keloid scarring was found over her left flank and hip.

She made a police report on Aug 27 last year.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Neo said she felt “emotionally down” after the incident.

DPP Kong told District Judge Eddy Tham: “In the first few months after the incident, she was unable to shower, and her mother had to help her wipe her body with a wet towel.

“She was also unable to walk properly due to the injuries on the leg, and had to stay at home. She had since stopped working at the restaurant, and is currently unemployed.”

Ms Neo also said she feels fear every time she enters a kitchen and is now afraid of drinking hot water as well.

“She is reminded of the painful incident every time she sees the scars. Presently, she is still looking for a job, and she will not work at places where she has to go to the kitchen,” said the DPP.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, ABR Holdings, the company that runs Swensen’s, said that Firdaus was working part-time at the restaurant.

He was suspended during the investigation period.

Its spokesman said: “This was an isolated accident. The company had a review of its workplace safety and health risk management, and conducted a risk evaluation to identify any hazard areas and concerns.

“Regular reminders are conducted during daily briefing sessions to all colleagues concerning the importance of workplace safety.”

On Thursday, Firdaus also admitted to rioting with five members of his electric bicycle riding group near VivoCity shopping mall on June 25 this year.

They had ganged up against a 17-year-old boy who had earlier misappropriated a device belonging to Firdaus, the court heard.

Judge Tham called for a report to assess Firdaus’ suitability for reformative training.

Offenders sentenced to it must spend between 18 months and three years in a reformative training centre. They must also follow a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.

The judge also called for a probation progress report and the case has been adjourned to Dec 4.

For causing hurt by performing a rash act, Firdaus can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000. For rioting, he can be jailed for up to seven years and caned.

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