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Malaysia: Petrol station blamed over girl's death

Categories: East Asia, Malaysia, Digital Activism, Disaster

Malaysian bloggers and social media users react to an accident that took place in the capital city in the early morning of June 3. A 27-year-old student by the name of Florina ak Joseph was trapped inside her burning car, after an accident involving a car and a lorry.


Photo from ondscene

Teo Chai Yong was the first to arrive on the scene. Local daily The Star has the details [2] of Teo's attempt to save the girl:

Teo, 31, had driven to the 24-hour petrol station that was near the scene of an accident to look for a fire extinguisher after he heard screams from the trapped woman and saw sparks under the car. Teo had pleaded with the attendants and even offered to buy the extinguishers but was rejected. He rushed back to the accident scene, only to see the car engulfed in flames with the woman still inside.

After the story was published in various mainstream newspapers, many are blaming the petrol station for refusing to lend the fire extinguishers that could possibly save the girl's live, but are they to blame?

The Malaysian blogoshpere is divided over this especially after a note written by Teo was posted on a Facebook account venting his anger and asking for a boycott of BHP (the post has seen been removed). Blogger Kwong Fei has an extraction [3] of the note. He believes that [4] BHP cannot be held accountable for the death of the girl:

The BHP staff may be morally wrong for not lending the fire extinguisher despite being told it was a real accident and Witness A is willing to give them his IC to prove it was a real scenario. However, the BHP staff did not do any wrong legally.

Creating FB page and making a blog post asking the public to boycott BHP petrol is legally not wrong if your judgement is that the staff lack of humanity, True enough how much a fire extinguisher would cost compared to a life of a person. As a consumer, you have the power to decide and to choose you products.

Claiming the BHP staff as murderer is legally wrong. The real murderer is the driver of the Toyota Vios who hit the car of the victim. You may be sued for tarnishing the image of the company. (in my opinion)

Erna Mahyuni [5] provides her thoughts on this issue:

Rather than hand over a fire extinguisher, staff at a BHP petrol station cited directives not to open the kiosk’s doors after hours. Their caution did have some basis. Holdups are common occurrences at petrol station kiosks and mini-marts in Malaysia. The reality, though, is that a woman’s life might have been saved if a fire extinguisher had been on hand. Instead, she burned alive while helpless onlookers watched. It’s a sad reflection of how Malaysians have become so used to not using their heads. We toe the line, we play it safe.

Point2Entertainment [6] still calls for a boycott of all BHP Petrol stations:

I read with great anger, sympathy and sadness at this probably avoidable death (photos, more news). My only help is to boycott ALL BHP PETROL STATIONS throughout Malaysia, not just Tmn Pertama/Cheras stations. How cruel and insensitive. How stupid. And what a waste of a good life. Are they accountable? Legally, no. But morally, yes. Legally is the VIOS driver. To think being burned alive; that scares me to no end. And I am driving a Myvi too. Better pack a fire extinguisher in the car?

Other reactions from netizens [2] were published in The Star:

Netizen Tan Loon Wern demanded that BHP make a formal apology to the victim’s family while Justin Tan said it should also compensate the woman’s family.

Another Netizen, Chong Kit Ling, expressed sadness that a human life was not valued, while Kelvin Wong Jing Zhi said petrol stations should place fire extinguishers at accessible spots.

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said he could understand the anger showed by the public and Netizens.

“A life could have been saved if the attendants had lent Teo a fire extinguisher. This is a very unfortunate incident,” he said.

MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Michael Chong said the attendants could have used their judgment to decide if Teo’s pleas were genuine.

“They should have just lent him the extinguisher. Instead, they did nothing. This is very sad,” he said.

Also frustrated with the situation, Brunei-based Filipino blogger John Rey [7] could only offer his prayers:

I personally do not have anything else to say about this without pointing a finger at someone but this is just sad. My prayers go out to the family and friends of the victim.