A 38-year-old woman, Loke Xiao Li, was killed last year when a tree at Marsiling Park fell onto her, and the National Parks Board (NParks) said yesterday (13 October) that the tree in question was infested with termites.
However, they added, that the tree didn’t show any visible signs of being in poor health.
NParks group director of streetscape Oh Cheow Sheng said on the first day of a coroner’s inquiry into Loke’s death, that when they last conducted a visual tree assessment on the tree in question back in April 2020, there was no termite infestation detected.
There were no visible signs like mounds or mud trails from the termites entering the 20-metre-tall Araucaria excelsa tree from under the ground.
He added that water and nutrients could still flow to the tree, and there were no symptoms of poor health in the tree.
Oh also further added that the tree was inspected every 24 months until 2019, when they shortened the period to every 18 months because of more intense weather conditions., and that the tree was consistently recorded as being in healthy condition with no decay or cavities.
He said that visual assessments are regularly carried out on trees in urban areas, in according to the international best practices laid out by the International Society of Arboriculture.
State coroner Adam Nakhoda asked if the NParks officers who carried out the assessments were certified arborists, Oh said that not all of them were and they would be required to have at least 3 years of working experience.
He then added that a second, more advanced assessment may be conducted if the visual assessments show defects that require further checks.
During these checks, a more rigorous and stringent process would be implemented, including the use of specialised equipment such as a high-tech drill to assess the tree’s internal wood quality based on the resistance against the drill.
“However, such techniques and resources can be cost-intensive. It is not practical nor financially feasible to conduct advanced-level inspection as a blanket measure.”
Oh also added that it was not raining at the time of the incident and the wind gust was also moderate, based on his recollection.
He said that “This is a very rare situation where the tree is structurally compromised, yet did not show any external signs or symptoms… For the past 12 years, there have been only three cases in which tree failure is attributed directly to termite infestations.”
The coroner’s inquiry into Loke’s death resumes today.
38-year-old Loke Xiao Li was killed when a tree fell onto her during her morning run at Marsiling Park back in February 2021.
SCDF officers arrived at the scene and found her trapped under the tree, and they then used a saw to cut the tree in order to free her.
However, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Loke worked at Mediacorp as a senior technical coordinator with the studios team, and was exercising at the park as part of her new year’s resolution, according to her friends.
She was also repeatedly wearing noise-cancelling earbuds during her run and as such, she was very unlikely to have heard the loud crack of the falling tree.