He stole a driving licence and an NRIC from a stranger’s wallet while out clubbing. Ong Han You, then 17, used the documents to rent cars through a friend despite being below the legal age for driving.
Tragedy struck some two months later when Ong drove a rented car and crashed into a motorcycle, killing its pillion rider.
On Monday (24 September), Ong, now 20, was sentenced to reformative training, a rehabilitative sentencing option for offenders under 21 who are found to be unsuitable for probation. Those sent to the Reformative Training Centre undergo a strict regime behind bars for between 18 months and three years.
He was also banned from driving for eight years.
Ong had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of cheating, one count of causing death by a negligent act and one count of failing to render assistance after the crash. His actions caused the death of 45-year-old Lau Lee Kiaw, who was the fiancee of motorcyclist Lim Meng Peng, 55.
Five other charges were considered in sentencing.
The court had earlier heard that Ong, who is still serving his national service, found the driving licence and NRIC sometime in December 2015 in a wallet left outside Club V5 at Ming Arcade. He kept the documents and disposed of the wallet.
In March 2016, Ong asked his friend, 19-year-old Tan Jun Jie, to rent a car for him using the documents. Tan then obtained a car from rental firm Rent My Car on 23 March 2016. He handed the vehicle over to Ong on the same day.
When Ong began experiencing problems with the car five days later, he asked Tan to seek a replacement vehicle, which he did.
The day of the accident
On 21 May 2016, nearly two months into using the rental car, Ong was sending his girlfriend back to her home when he lost control of the vehicle.
At around 7.56am, he was driving at a speed of between 60kmh and 70kmh on the rightmost lane of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 towards Buangkok Green, when his right hand slipped off the steering wheel.
He hit Lim, who had stopped his motorcycle at a junction while waiting to make a right turn into Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 2. The force of the impact threw Lim and Lau off the motorcycle.
Ong’s car continued surging forward into oncoming traffic. He crashed into a taxi before his car came to a stop.
Ong then alighted from the car and saw Lau lying on a grass patch while breathing heavily. But Ong abandoned his car and fled the scene with his girlfriend in a taxi.
Later, Tan called to tell Ong that the police had contacted him about the crash. Ong surrendered himself later that day. Tan has been sentenced to reformative training for his role in the matter.
Lim, Lau and the taxi driver were conveyed to hospital. Lau died one and a half hours after the accident while Lim had two spinal fractures and a fractured leg. The taxi driver was diagnosed with acute stress reaction.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia urged District Judge Jasvender Kaur to jail Ong for between 13 and 15 months, and disqualify him from driving for eight years, given the serious nature of his crimes. Ong had cheated the rental company and made a “calculated choice” to leave the scene of the crime, said the prosecutor.
In mitigation, Ong’s lawyer, Sivanathan Wijaya, asked for reformative training. He said Ong did not gain financially from the cheating charges. “There is no doubt that this tragic episode will haunt (Ong) forever,” said the lawyer.