SINGAPORE: A 22-year-old man pleaded guilty on Tuesday (May 5) to causing the death of a 64-year-old woman while riding his personal mobility device (PMD).
Hung Kee Boon also admitted to a charge of riding a non-compliant PMD on a shared path.
Hung, a Singapore permanent resident, collided into Madam Ong Bee Eng while riding his e-scooter on the cycling path near Bedok North Street 3 on Sep 21, 2019.
In November that year, the use of e-scooters was banned on footpaths, with fines of up to S$2,000 and up to three months in jail for those found riding on footpaths.
The court heard that Madam Ong - who was wearing a light-coloured top and dark-coloured shorts - had been cycling near a coffee shop at Block 539 Bedok North Street 3 at about 10.23pm on the day of the accident.
Her bicycle had baskets installed on the front and rear but no headlights, noted Deputy Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok.
At the same time, Hung, who is a Malaysian national, was riding his e-scooter along the cycling path on his way to meet a friend.
Madam Ong was going to ride perpendicularly across the cycling path to a zebra crossing on the other side when the front of Hung’s e-scooter collided into the front right wheel of her bicycle.
The impact caused the deceased to be flung off her bicycle and onto the adjacent footpath, while Hung fell onto a grass patch.
Passersby who came to Madam Ong’s aid found her bleeding from her head, Mr Kok said, adding she was unconscious and unresponsive.
Meanwhile, Hung had sustained injuries but was otherwise conscious, the court heard.
Madam Ong was admitted to Changi General Hospital, where she was found to have sustained extensive facial injuries and multiple traumatic injuries including severe brain trauma. There were also fractures at the base of her skull, left collarbone and left ribs.
Doctors noted that surgery would be high-risk, given the severity of the brain injury and the risk of on-table mortality, said Mr Kok, who also raised the high likelihood that Madam Ong would remain in a persistent vegetative state even if she survived the operation.
This “grim prognosis” made her family decide against surgical intervention, and Madam Ong was admitted to the surgical intensive care unit for comfort measures, succumbing to her injuries on Sep 25, 2019.
The court heard that Hung’s device was an unregistered Dualtron Ultra e-scooter, which Hung had purchased in 2018 for S$2,000 from a seller on online marketplace Carousell.
Hung had been aware that the PMD, which weighed about 44kg and had a top speed of between 75 and 80kmh, was “grossly non-compliant” with regulations when he purchased it, said Mr Kok.
Though the riding of e-scooters is allowed on cycling paths, Hung’s device would still have been prohibited from use as it was unregistered and non-compliant with regulations, he added.
Under the Active Mobility Act, such devices should weigh no more than 20kg and have a top speed of 25kmh.
Mr Kok pointed out that Hung would have been aware at the time that he was speeding because his device was equipped with a speedometer.
There were also rumble strips on the cycling path - grooves designed to indicate to cyclists and PMD riders that they should slow down, he said.
It is incumbent upon the rider to reduce the risk of collision, said Mr Kok, adding that the severity of Madam Ong’s injuries was indicative of the impact of the crash.
The prosecution also argued there was no contributory negligence on the part of the deceased.
While Madam Ong had not fitted her bicycle with headlights, Mr Kok argued that there was no evidence suggesting that the collision could have been avoided had such lights been equipped.
Noting this was the first case of a PMD user causing the death of another person while riding his device, the prosecution called for Hung to be sentenced to three months in prison, citing the need to deter others from riding recklessly.
In her mitigation, Hung’s lawyer Kimberley Pah asked the court to consider the suitability of probation as a sentence instead.
Ms Pah brought up Hung's age and described her client as a “youthful offender” who would benefit from rehabilitation.
She argued that Hung was "mentally preoccupied" at the time of the incident. His father had recently committed suicide and he was involved in settling dispute over his father's estate.
Ms Pah also pointed to unspecified “troubling circumstances” Hung had recently learned about from his father’s girlfriend.
The defence disagreed with the prosecution’s point that Madam Ong’s lack of headlights had no impact, arguing that the incident happened at night and she was emerging from a blind spot - a lighted signboard belonging to the coffee shop.
Ms Pah said Hung had expressed genuine remorse over the incident and had asked for permission to pay his respects to Madam Ong's family. He also suffered "substantial psychological trauma", she said, adding that he experienced regular flashbacks and "overwhelming feelings of guilt", and had trouble sleeping.
However, the prosecution argued that such “mental preoccupation” and the “late hour” of the incident would not be considered as mitigating factors in traffic accidents.
“I see no reason why these should feature here,” said Mr Kok.
“All riders should be held to the same standard,” he said, noting the circumstances pointed to the high culpability of the accused.
Hung had been riding his PMD since its purchase a year earlier and had “knowingly breached restrictions” in doing so, said Mr Kok.
“Simply put, this was an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
Hung will return to court on May 20 for sentencing.