Elevator Crash Kills Three at Building Site

Three men died Thursday morning and one was critically injured when the cable lowering a crude elevator they were riding at a high-rise construction site in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district snapped, sending them plummeting four stories, an official said.

Bin Sochhy, deputy director of the municipal department of land management, said two of the deceased men were construction workers at the site, while the third was a coffee seller on his way down from delivering drinks to workers. The injured man was also a worker on the site, he said.

A police officer inspects a construction elevator that fell four stories at a building site in Phnom Penh's Chamkar Mon district on Thursday while carrying four workers, killing three. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A police officer inspects a construction elevator that fell four stories at a building site in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on Thursday while carrying four workers, killing three. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The elevator’s steel cable snapped at the fourth floor,” Mr. Sochhy said. “The elevator is just for carrying material. It was not allowed to be used by people.”

Two of the men, a construction worker and the coffee seller, died at the scene. The other two were transported to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, where one succumbed to his injuries in the afternoon. The last man remained in critical condition Thursday.

Mr. Sochhy and the district police officials investigating the case said they did not know the name of the company behind the construction project or that of the owner of the 11-story building.

At the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, relatives identified the deceased as police examined their bodies outside the morgue.

Tith Sovin, 45, said her 18-year-old son Vann Saroeun broke his neck, both his legs, his right arm, and died at the hospital.

“We came from Prey Veng province to make a living,” said Ms. Sovin, who also worked at the construction site along with her husband and four other children. “Now I don’t know what to do.”

Kang Chanthou, 41, said her husband Ly Long, also 41, visited the site each day to sell coffee to the workers.

“Oh, god, just at this age he died,” she said, weeping. “Oh, god, nobody can make a livelihood for the children now.”

Mead Sy said his 16-year-old brother Mead Soeung, who died when the elevator crashed, began working at the site just four days ago.

The lone survivor of the accident, Ath Heab, 18, was recovering from a severed right arm and two broken ankles, according to his father, Nhem Oeng.

“Doctors told me there is little hope because he suffered a serious injury,” he said. “My son will be handicapped and I don’t know what kind of job he can do if he survives.”

The government has failed to keep pace with the booming construction sector, which remains for the most part unregulated despite being one of the main drivers of foreign investment in the country, leaving construction firms to police themselves.

Mr. Sochhy said construction has been suspended at the site of Thursday’s accident pending an investigation by authorities, but that his department was not responsible for safety inspections.

“We inspect the legal permission and technicalities of the construction,” he said. “It [safety] is the job of the company.”

Thursday’s accident was the second time this week that a construction site was shut down in Phnom Penh following a deadly accident.

A 20-year-old construction worker died in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district onTuesday when his safety harness ripped and he fell seven stories to the ground.

Leng Tong, director of the Labor Ministry’s occupational health and safety department, said the ministry would begin inspections of large-scale construction sites sometime this month.

“There’s more and more accidents now,” he said. “So the minister is pushing us to begin inspections.”

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