SINGAPORE: A taxi driver in an accident that killed a passenger and injured three others who were headed to the National University of Singapore (NUS) pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Jul 17).
Yap Kok Hua, 55, pleaded guilty to one charge of a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide and a second of causing grievous hurt to the surviving three passengers.
Another two charges were taken into consideration.
NUS undergraduate Kathy Ong, 19, died in the accident after the cabby made a discretionary right turn, and an oncoming car crashed into the taxi.
Her friends, Zon Lim Thou Jung, Lim Jin Jie and Ting Jun Heng, all 22 at the time, were taken to hospital with injuries varying from fractures to multiple lacerations and a seizure.
Yap had picked up the four students from Clementi Mall at about 7.30pm on Apr 19 last year.
PASSENGERS IN THE BACK NOT WEARING SEATBELTS WHEN SPEEDING CAR HIT TAXI
The Premier Taxi cabby did not ensure that the three rear passengers had fastened their seatbelts before starting his journey to NUS’ Tembusu College, the court heard.
He stopped at the cross junction of Commonwealth Avenue West and Clementi Road, as the traffic light was red in his direction.
When the lights turned green, but before the green right-turn arrow was lit, Yap drove into the right-turn pocket where he stopped and checked for vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
Even though he saw a car coming towards him from the opposite direction at a high speed, he decided to execute the discretionary right turn anyway.
The oncoming Nissan Presage, driven by 21-year-old Ng Li Ning, was travelling straight along Commonwealth Avenue West towards Boon Lay Way on the second lane from the left and had the right of way.
Mr Ng, who was travelling between 92kmh and 97kmh, was unable to avoid Yap’s taxi, which was going at an estimated 24kmh, and collided into it with force. Both vehicles spun from impact and the cab hit another car which had stopped at the junction.
MS ONG DIED IN HOSPITAL, OTHERS SEVERELY INJURED
Ms Ong, who was seated on the left rear of the taxi, was thrown partially out of the window.
She was taken to National University Hospital (NUH) where she died that night from multiple injuries.
The passenger in the front, Mr Zon Lim, suffered multiple lacerations and had glass in his wounds. He was kept on a cervical collar and hospitalised for eight days.
Mr Lim Jin Jie, who was seated at the right of the rear, bled in his brain and suffered a spine fracture. He was also hospitalised for eight days.
Mr Ting, who was seated in the middle at the back, had traumatic brain injury and broke his ribs and pelvic bones. He was in a vegetative state at first but improved, and was hospitalised for 54 days. To date, he is still undergoing rehabilitation.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh asked for at least eight weeks’ jail and a five-year driving ban to be imposed, calling the case “a serious one with awful consequences”.
Yap’s negligence claimed one life and inflicted grievous injuries on three others, said the prosecutor.
CABBY HAS BAD DRIVING RECORD: PROSECUTOR
He said Yap had a bad driving record, repeatedly committing traffic offences over 24 years from 1992 to 2016, but "decided to approach traffic safety with the same nonchalance as he had in the past".
The previous offences include careless driving, speeding and failing to conform to a red light signal.
Defence lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong, who are acting pro bono for Yap, urged for not more than six weeks’ jail and a driving ban of not more than five years.
The Invictus Law Corporation lawyers said Yap had pleaded guilty and was remorseful, and that the other driver had been speeding, going up to 97kmh on a 70kmh-limit road.
They cited a Health Sciences Authority report that said the collision could have been avoided had Mr Li been going at 70kmh.
Addressing Yap’s previous traffic offences, the defence said this was not a case of beating the red lights, and that his last conviction for careless driving was almost eight years ago.
READ: Scrap discretionary right turns at all junctions soon, MPs urge as Road Traffic Act amendments passed
“Mr Yap is 56 years old this year and he is currently seeing a doctor for acute kidney injury and nephrotic syndrome,” said defence counsel Mr Tan.
He added that Yap was the sole breadwinner of his family and has lost his driving licence and cannot continue driving a taxi when released from jail.
District Judge Victor Yeo adjourned sentencing to Aug 2 for him to consider submissions.
For committing a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, Yap can be jailed for up to two years and fined.
He could be jailed for up to two years and fined S$5,000 for causing grievous hurt by a negligent act.