SINGAPORE — A Mercedes Benz driver on Monday (14 October) admitted to causing the death of a motorist and grievously injuring several others while driving against the flow of traffic on the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) in 2016.
Lim Chai Heng, a 56-year-old Singaporean, had driven into the motorcycle lane at Tuas Checkpoint and later barrelled against the flow of traffic at a speed of 120kmh to 147kmh, crashing into and killing actor Liong Kuo Hwa, who was driving a Toyota Vios.
The prosecution is asking for a sentence of two years’ jail for Lim and a driving ban of 12 years. Lim’s lawyer, Yusfiyanto Yatiman, is seeking a five to seven month jail term and a disqualification period of eight years, citing Lim’s acute psychosis condition as an important mitigating factor.
Judicial Commissioner Vincent Hoong reserved judgment on the case and will sentence Lim at a later date.
Lim was originally charged with causing death by reckless or dangerous driving, but had his charge enhanced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. It was later downgraded to his current charge.
On Monday, he pleaded guilty to a charge of causing the death through a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide. Another three counts of causing grievous hurt through a rash act to Liong’s wife Venny Oliver, 40, motorcyclist Teh Tze Yong and his wife Choo Yat Chiam, both 37-year-old Malaysians, and one count of causing hurt to motorist Tan Han Boon, 37, through the same act, will be taken into consideration for sentencing.
Drove through motorcycle lane at Tuas Checkpoint
On 19 December 2016, Lim, the sole proprietor of a printing company, was sending his son to his first day of work at Central Manpower Base when the accident occurred.
Even though he intended to drop his son off at Depot Road, Lim missed several exits while driving along the CTE towards the AYE. He then continued towards Tuas after missing other exits. He refused to exit the AYE despite his son’s requests, and accused his son of not trusting him.
When he reached Tuas Checkpoint, he entered the motorcycle lane at about 7.57am, ignoring the only gap in the barrier which allowed him to exit.
The motorcycle lane eventually became too narrow for his car and Lim stopped. After two minutes, Lim made a three-point turn before driving against the flow of motorcycles.
He eventually exited the motorcycle lane into the car lane through the gap in the barrier but continued driving against the flow of traffic on the Tuas Checkpoint Departure Viaduct leading to the AYE. Two oncoming vehicles had to avoid his car.
Drove up to speed of 147kmh before accident
Just before exiting the viaduct, Lim accelerated and reached a speed of up to 147kmh as he entered the AYE. He drove on lane one towards the Tuas West Underpass.
At about 8.01am, after crossing the underpass, Tan was driving his car when the vehicle in front of him swerved left to avoid Lim’s car. Tan also swerved left but collided into a bus. Tan’s car hit a concrete wall.
Liong’s car, which was right behind Tan, collided into Lim’s car head on. It veered across two lanes and slammed against the concrete wall.
Lim’s car also veered and collided head on with Teh’s scooter. The force of the impact flung Teh and Choo, who was riding pillion, from their scooter.
Lim’s car continued moving until it rammed into a concrete wall. It had driven a total of 1.8km against the flow of traffic.
Liong was pronounced dead at the scene at about 8.18am. His wife suffered from jawbone and rib fractures and a right lung contusion.
Teh suffered five fractures in his hand and arm and had his right ring finger amputated while his wife had a fracture on her thighbone, kneecap, and a sprain to her shoulder. Tan had abrasions on his forearm.
Aware of risk he was taking: Prosecution
Citing the degree of rashness Lim had exhibited and the harm caused, the prosecution called his case “close to the most serious of its kind” in respect of the charge.
Lim had driven against the flow of traffic at a high speed and at a “very high” risk of “catastrophic outcome”, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan, noting that Lim was driving at almost 50 per cent higher than the speed limit of 90kmh.
“The prosecution accepts that (Lim) was labouring under acute psychosis at the material time. Nonetheless, (he) remained in control of his actions, and was cognisant of the risks that he was undertaking,” said the DPP.
Lim’s is an exceptional case: Defence
Mitigating for Lim, his lawyer Yusfiyanto told the court that his client’s case was “exceptional” as his acute psychosis condition significantly impaired his judgement.
While acknowledging the “tragic case”, Yusfiyanto argued for the court to fully consider his client’s psychiatric condition.
According to previous media reports, Teh and Choo had sued Lim for negligence and were awarded $530,000 in settlement. Liong’s estate has also sued Lim and the case is currently before the courts.