Deceased foreign worker in Little India riot tripped and fell after being ejected from bus: Police
[UPDATED on 11 December at 11am: Adding fresh details about accident]
The 33-year-old Indian national who died after being run over by a bus was drunk, said Singapore police in fresh details that emerged from its investigation into an accident that triggered the first riot in Singapore in more than 40 years.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, police told local media that the man, identified as construction worker Sakthivel Kumarvelu, was drunk and causing trouble when he boarded the bus that eventually ran him down.
According to local media, the bus was full but he climbed on anyway and started to cause trouble. The bus was ferrying workers from Tekka Lane back to their dormitory in Jalan Papan.
At one point, Sakthivel pulled his pants down and the bus driver asked his female timekeeper assistant -- in charge of keeping the bus running on schedule -- to get him to alight, reported Today newspaper. Channel NewsAsia reported that the "female timekeeper on (the) bus (was) assaulted" before the 55-year-old bus driver closed the bus doors.
Then, according to police investigations, Sakthivel walked or ran after the bus in "an unsteady manner". "He then stumbled, tripped and fell onto the path of the rear tyre of the bus and was run over," police said, according to a Today report.
As the bus turned into Race Course Road, the driver heard a soft thud at the side of the bus -- that was Sakthivel being knocked down and getting caught under the bus' left tyre.
After the accident, the crowd outside the bus became "agitated", attacking the bus driver and timekeeper by throwing bottles, stones and dustbins at the bus.
Police reportedly said they were unable to confirm whether or not the rioters were drunk, and are interviewing others apart from the 27 alleged participants who were arrested on Sunday night.
The bus driver, a 55-year-old Singaporean, was arrested and is out on bail. He will be charged with causing death by a negligent act, said police. If found guilty, the driver is set for a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Of the 27 alleged riot participants aged between 23 and 45, who were arrested at the scene on Sunday night, police said 24 of them are Indian nationals, two are Bangladeshis and one is a Singapore Permanent Resident. Some of these may be charged on Tuesday, police added.
Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran also announced on Monday afternoon that a ban on alcohol sales will be imposed in the Little India area this weekend.
Meanwhile, an updated figure of 39 police, SCDF and auxillary officers were injured. Police said earlier on Monday that 22 of its officers and five of its auxiliary officers were treated for lacerations and other injuries. The 27 were since discharged, police said.
The 25 emergency vehicles that were damaged, alongside five set on fire, in the riots were also removed in the hours that followed, and Race Course Road and Hampshire Road, where they happened, were opened by 6:45am Monday.
Police also stressed that it has stepped up its presence in the area, and will continue to do so until this weekend, reported local media.
Meanwhile, South Asian workers Yahoo Singapore spoke to expressed regret over the incident and hoped the riot would not cast a shadow over their community.
An estimated 400 people rioted in Little India late Sunday night shortly after the accident involving the private bus and the construction worker, the latter of whom was crossing the junction between the two roads, at 9:23pm, police said. The New Paper reports that the driver was dragged out of the private bus, which was carrying a bus load of construction workers, and was assualted by a group of men.
Five police vehicles, one ambulance and several private vehicles were damaged and/or burnt in the process, said police in its initial statement in the wee hours of Monday morning.
Police are appealing for more information from eyewitnesses, who can contact them here and here.
During the chaos on Sunday night, at least two police vehicles were overturned and an ambulance set on fire, which sent clouds of black smoke billowing across the night sky.
In one shocking video, a man can be seen trying to smash the windscreen of the private bus that was involved in the accident with a plastic dustbin.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean said, "This is a serious incident which has resulted in injuries and damage to public property. The situation is now under control. Police will spare no efforts to apprehend the subjects involved in the riots."
To control the two-hour riot, police said they activated resources from Special Operations Command and Gurkha Contingent to the scene. In total, 300 police were deployed but no shots were fired from any weapon, lethal or non-lethal, throughout the incident, police said.
Little India is a popular hangout and meeting place, especially on Sunday night, with Singapore's sizeable workforce of foreign labour from South Asia.
On Yahoo Singapore's Facebook page, Ricky Woon commented: "This matter is under control but the underlying issues are not solve(d). If things continue to be this way and we are being complacent, when things happen again it could be our last chance to react. Will you guys want our country to be back to how it is and sleep in peace?"
News of the riot quickly spread on social media as well, triggering a flurry of tweets and posts about the turn of events in usually peaceful Singapore.
-- With reports by Nurul Azliah Aripin and Jeanette Tan