Driver involved in deadly crash after 9-hour drinking session jailed 10 months

Wan Ting Koh
The impact of the collision flung 61-year-old Tan Powi Kim, who had been standing behind the lorry, onto the roof of Tibrewal Sunil Kumar’s car. Her leg was severed in the process. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

After a nine-hour drinking session, a BMW driver lost control of his vehicle and crashed into the back of a lorry that was parked along Collyer Quay.

The impact flung 61-year-old Tan Powi Kim, who had been standing behind the lorry, onto the roof of Tibrewal Sunil Kumar’s car. Her right leg was severed in the process.

Tan’s husband, 69-year-old Cheng Kiat Yan, was standing on the lorry’s rear deck at the time and was sent flying onto the road by the collision.

Tan died from her injuries, while Cheng suffered a fractured knee and bruised wrist. The couple, both rag-and-bone collectors, had been loading cardboard onto the lorry when the accident took place.

At the State Courts on Wednesday (14 November), Tibrewal, a 48-year-old Singapore Permanent Resident and vice-president of a shipping company, was sentenced to 10 months’ jail. He was also banned from driving all classes of vehicles for eight years.

Tibrewal had earlier admitted to one count of committing a rash act causing Tan’s death. One count of committing a rash act causing grievous hurt and one count of drink driving were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

Speaking through his lawyer, Tibrewal said he intended to appeal against his sentence.

Nine-hour drinking session

On 20 February 2016, at about 6.20am, Tibrewal and his colleague left Orchard Towers in Tibrewal’s car after some nine hours of drinking.

Tibrewal had intended to send his colleague to their office at Collyer Quay before driving home.

At around the same time, the elderly couple had parked their lorry on the extreme left lane of Collyer Quay below OUE Link. The lorry’s hazard lights were switched on at the time.

Cheng stood on the lorry’s rear deck receiving cardboard from his wife, who was on the road behind the lorry.

At about 7.02am, Tibrewal drove along Collyer Quay towards Esplanade Drive. He was feeling sleepy and intoxicated at the time.

As he was turning a bend along Collyer Quay, he took his eyes off the road and removed one hand from the steering wheel in order to wake his colleague.

This caused his car to swerve to the extreme left lane and collide into the back of the couple’s lorry.

Tan’s right leg was amputated in the collision, while her body was flung onto the roof of Tibrewal’s car before landing on its bonnet. Cheng was thrown onto the road.

The impact pushed the couple’s lorry forward, sending it crashing into another lorry that was parked in front it.

Tibrewal alighted from his car and carried Tan’s body from his vehicle’s bonnet onto the road. Police and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers arrived at the scene shortly after.

Tan was conveyed to a hospital where where she died from multiple injuries at 8.01am.

Alcohol back calculation

Having failed a breathalyser test at the scene, Tibrewal was arrested.

About two hours and 40 minutes later, he underwent a breath evidential analyser test and was found to have 32 microgram of alcohol in 100ml of breath. This was below the prescribed limit of 35 micrograms per 100ml of breath.

In an unprecedented move, a Health Sciences Authority officer did an alcohol back calculation on Tibrewal and estimated that he was in the range of 42 micrograms to 58 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath.

Tibrewal admitted that he had consumed about half a glass to half a pint of beer at each of the six bars in Orchard Towers that he visited that night.

He said that he felt sleepy before the incident and that he had been awake for more than 19 hours before the accident. He had failed to notice the lorry and had applied the brakes when he saw it but was unable to prevent the collision.

Accused a careful driver, says lawyer

The prosecution asked for a jail term of at least 12 months and a disqualification period of eight years.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Li Yihong said that Tibrewal’s manner of driving was reckless as he had taken his eyes of the road and one hand off the wheel.

Tibrewal’s lawyer, Yusfianto Yatiman, asked for four months’ jail and a disqualification period of seven years.

He said that his client, who has two children, had always been a careful driver. On the day of the accident, his colleague had been upset about work-related issues and Tibrewal lent a listening ear.

The lawyer added that Tibrewal had consciously limited his alcohol intake as he was making business phone calls during the drinking session, as was his usual practice.

The lawyer added that his client had immediately alighted to assist after the accident and was cooperative with the police.

In sentencing Tibrewal, District Judge Kessler Soh noted that Tibrewal should have seen the lorry if he had kept his eyes on the road.

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