E-scooter rider who killed elderly cyclist after collision pleads guilty

A view of Block 539 Bedok North Street 3 and its cycling and pedestrian paths. (PHOTO: Google Street View)
A view of Block 539 Bedok North Street 3 and its cycling and pedestrian paths. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE — A 22-year-old e-scooter rider who collided with an elderly female cyclist at Bedok in 2019 pleaded guilty to causing her death on Tuesday (4 May), in the first such fatal case involving a personal mobility device user in Singapore.

Ong Bee Eng, 64, sustained severe traumatic injuries from the collision and was deemed to have a high likelihood of remaining in a vegetative state if she survived. Her family decided against surgical intervention, and Ong died in the September 2019 accident.

Apart from the charge of causing her death, the rider, Malaysian Hung Kee Boon, pleaded guilty to one charge under the Active Mobility Act for riding a personal mobility device that did not comply with legal requirements.

His PMD weighed 44.2 kg and had a handle bar that measured 725mm. A compliant PMD has to have an unladen maximum weight of 20kg, and its width must not exceed 700mm. Its maximum speed cannot exceed 25kmh.

Another charge of having his PMD unregistered will be considered for his sentencing, which has been adjourned to 20 May.

Hung bought his device from Carousell for $2,000 in October 2018.

The court heard that on 21 September 2019, Ong had been cycling at night near a coffee shop at Block 539 Bedok North Street 3.

She had just bought canned and bottle drinks from a nearby supermarket and was riding without headlights, but was dressed in a light-coloured top and dark coloured shorts.

Hung was riding his e-scooter along a cycling path on his way to met a friend. As his device was non-compliant, he was prohibited from riding on the cycling path, which had a speed limit of 25kmh.

The speedometer Hung was using indicated he was above the speed limit. As he approached a juncture, Hung did not reduce his speed. At this point, Ong rode her bicycle across the pavement, intending to ride to the cycling path.

Even though Hung noticed Ong entering the cycling path, he was unable to stop his e-scooter in time to avoid a collision due to its speed. The e-scooter collided with the front wheel of the bicycle, and Ong was flung from her bicycle and landed on the adjacent path.

Hung fell on the grass path. Attracted by the noise, passersby ran to Ong's aid.

Ong, who was unconscious, and Hung were conveyed to hospital. Ong sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, a skull fracture, as well as multiple rib and clavicular fractures.

Doctors gave a grim prognosis, that even if Ong underwent and survived the operation, she would likely be still in a vegetative state, unable to communicate, fully dependent for activities of daily living, and possibly ventilator-dependent.

"In view of the grim prognosis, the deceased’s family decided against surgical intervention," said the prosecution.

Ong succumbed to her injuries on 25 September 2019. Her death was certified to be from cranio-cerebral injuries with pneumonia.

Hung was found to have a fracture in his forearm.

Forensic analysis determined that Ong was riding at a speed of between 6kmh and 10kmh right before the accident, while Hung's speed was between 27kmh and 43kmh.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Dhillon Kok sought a jail term of at least three months for Hung.

While the prosecutor accepted that Hung may be treated as a youthful offender, this was displaced by the severity of the harm caused.

The DPP highlighted that Hung's was the first case where a PMD user caused the death of another person as a result of his riding.

In mitigation, Hung's lawyer, Kimberly Pah from the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, asked the court to call for a probation report, given Hung's age. She disagreed that his offence was so heinous as to displace rehabilitation as a sentencing principle.

Pah told the court that Hung was "mentally preoccupied" at the point in time as his father had just committed suicide.

He faced challenges in settling the family's quarrels over his father's estate, and had also learned of the "troubling circumstances" of his father's suicide.

"He demonstrates genuine remorse and guilt. He sought to pay respects to the deceased as he wanted to express regret for her spirit and family. He suffered considerable psychological trauma from the guilt of causing her death," said Pah.

As to Hung's speed at the material time, Pah said that the defence acknowledged he was speeding, but that the speed was at the lower end of the analysis range.

Pah also disagreed that Ong's lack of headlights had no impact as Ong had been emerging from a "blindspot" and illumination would have helped.

For causing death through a rash act, Hung may be jailed up to five years, or fined, or both.

For riding a non-compliant PMD, he faces a jail term of up to three months and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

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