SINGAPORE — A traffic accident involving a Malaysia-registered bus ferrying passengers to Singapore in February resulted in the death of a female passenger and grievous hurt to two other passengers, a court heard on Friday (8 November).
The bus was driven at a fast speed while going up a ramp and negotiating a bend, causing it to destabilise, skid and crash into the guardrail. The impact caused two passengers, including the woman who died, to be flung out of the vehicle and fall from a height of about three stories.
Ten other passengers were also hurt in the accident, which reportedly blocked the heavy vehicle lane heading towards Singapore, forcing buses and lorries to be diverted back to Malaysia for more than five hours. One of the casualties was the deceased’s 38-year-old husband. The remaining four passengers on board the bus declined to be sent to hospital.
At the State Courts on Friday, the bus driver, Kalaimani Muniandy, 60, a Malaysian, was jailed for 10 weeks and banned from driving for five years after his release from prison. He pleaded guilty to one charge of causing death by a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, by failing to keep a proper control of his bus. One charge each of causing grievous hurt by a negligent act and causing hurt by a negligent act were considered in sentencing.
Kalaimani, who appeared via video-link in a wheelchair, told the court that he was handicapped by the accident and can no longer work.
On 26 February, Kalaimani drove along the Causeway at about 65kmh. He had been driving since about 2am. “He continued driving at a fast speed whilst driving up the ramp towards the arrival hall of Tuas Checkpoint, a one way, single lane road,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei.
“Instead of slowing down to negotiate an upcoming left bend, the accused continued driving at this speed. Because of this, the accused was unable to steer the bus away from the right guardrail when negotiating the left bend, causing the bus to destabilise, skid and collide onto the right guardrail of the ramp,” said the prosecutor.
At about 4.20am, the bus veered towards the left side of the ramp and finally came to a stop along the ramp before the arrival hall. The accident was captured on CCTV.
Two passengers were flung from the bus and over the ramp, falling about three stories onto a grass patch under the ramp. Malaysian national Mok Fei Chen, 35, had head injuries, and rib and spinal fractures. She was pronounced dead on the spot at about 5am by a paramedic.
The other passenger, a 22-year-old woman, had a broken jaw and pelvis, a cut to the liver, bruises on the lung, and her upper teeth knocked out, among other injuries. She underwent three surgeries and was discharged from the National University Hospital (NUH) after one-and-a-half weeks.
A 23-year-old female passenger also suffered grievous injuries. She had a broken forearm and a head injury. She was discharged from Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) the next day with two-and-a-half weeks of hospitalisation leave.
The nine other passengers who were injured were sent to either NUH or NTFGH. Mok’s husband had chest pain and a possible liver injury, but he refused to be admitted to NUH and was discharged against medical advice with medication and two weeks of medical leave. The other eight casualties were discharged from their respective hospitals later the same day with between two and five days of medical leave.
Kalaimani had multiple broken bones and was hospitalised for two weeks until 12 April. He was given hospitalisation leave until 7 June.
An inspection of the bus found that its tyres and braking system were in serviceable condition at the time of the accident, and that the vehicle had been regularly maintained with no mechanical failure.
DPP Tan asked for 10 weeks’ jail. In mitigation, Kalaimani, who did not have a lawyer, said he had been driving for 30 years and had a clean record. He also said the accident had left him with severe injuries.
District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan backdated Kalaimani’s jail term to the date of his remand on 12 October.
The maximum punishment for causing death by a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide is two years’ jail and a fine.
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