E-bike deaths: Mother of teen victim slams driver's account of accident

Wan Ting Koh
Photo: AFP

The mother of a power-assisted bicycle (PAB) user who died after a trailer collided into him has accused the driver of refusing to take responsibility over the death of her son and his friend in the accident that occurred on West Coast highway last year.

Chen Xuehong was responding to Sahadevan Senguttuvan’s testimony given in a Coroner’s Inquiry (CI) into the deaths of her son, Ong Zi Quan, 19, and his friend, Ang Yee Fong, 26, on Thursday (19 October). A third PAB rider, Marcus Loke Teck Soon, 17, a friend of the deceased, gave his testimony on the same day as well. Senguttuvan, a 34-year-old Indian national, has not been charged with any offence.

Around midnight on 27 October last year, Ong, Ang and Loke were riding on their respective PABs along the leftmost lane of West Coast highway towards Telok Blangah Road when Senguttuvan’s trailer plowed into the Ong and Ang from behind.

On Tuesday, Investigating Officer Vilton Hia testified that the victims were moving in a single file with Loke leading, Ong in the middle, and Ang taking the rear, when the trailer hit them. The trailer was moving at a speed of 40 km/h at the time.

However, Senguttuvan, who was heading to Keppel District Park to deliver a trailer on the night of the accident, insisted that the trio of PAB riders were stationary just before the accident. The driver, who had been driving the same vehicle for two and a half months, said that he only saw the victims when his vehicle neared them.

The trio were standing next to each other on the extreme left lane, said Senguttuvan, adding that he had moved his vehicle to the right as he wanted to avoid hurting them. In response, the trio had tried to move to the right as well, he said.

Senguttuvan stood by his testimony even in the face of video footage played in court, which showed that the trio were travelling in a line as the trailer approached them from behind. In addition, a pedestrian had informed investigators that he witnessed the trio riding their PABs one behind another before the trailer collided into them.

Senguttuvan cast doubt on the pedestrian’s testimony and said through a court interpreter after seeing the video footage, “I have a doubt.” He was unable to say if his trailer had hit the PABs of the deceased at the same time.

Senguttuvan’s denial prompted Chen to accuse the driver of “pushing away responsibility”, a claim which he denied. The 43-year-old mother accused the driver of evading the State Counsel’s questions on the accident.

Chen said, “You keep denying this matter, won’t our children die for nothing? If you applied the brakes, you wouldn’t have caused (their) deaths,” said the mother through a Mandarin interpreter. Ang’s elder sister, Ang Hui Yee, 27, was also present at the CI.

At one point, Senguttuvan apologised to Chen. “I apologise to you Madam, I didn’t want a loss of life. I tried my best and I didn’t want to hit them. I have family and children,” said Senguttuvan.

“I have been taught how to drive in Singapore roads. I drive according to the rules… so I am not shaking off my responsibility,” he added.

Loke also testified that right before the accident, he turned around and saw the trailer approaching Ong, who was behind him. He shouted at Ong to “hurry up” in Mandarin but the trailer hit the latter as he was trying to speed up. The trailer also hit Loke’s PAB and the teenager was flung onto the pedestrian path on the left but he survived the impact.

Loke said that on the morning of the accident, the trio had gone to Geylang to buy accessories for their PABs and attached LED lights to each of their PABs. The trio had intended to visit the house of Loke’s grandmother in Telok Blangah and were on their way there when the accident occurred.

The findings of the CI will be delivered by State Coroner Marvin Bay on Friday.