Ex-taxi driver admits to causing NUS student's death at Clementi Road junction

Kathy Ong. (PHOTO: Kathy Ong/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — A taxi driver on Wednesday (17 July) admitted to causing the death of a 19-year-old National University of Singapore female undergraduate whom he was ferrying following an accident in Clementi Road.

Yap Kok Hua, 55, pleaded guilty to one count each of negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide and a negligent act causing grievous injury for the accident on 19 April last year. One count of causing injury through a negligent act and one of failing to ensure his passengers wore seatbelts were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

Just prior to the accident, Yap was about to turn at a junction at Commonwealth Avenue West and Clementi Road. He had attempted to make a right turn into Clementi Road despite seeing a car coming at a high speed towards him in the opposite direction.

NUS undergraduate Kathy Ong Kai Ting was seated at the rear left of Yap's taxi along with two other men, Ting Jun Heng, who was beside her, and Lim Jin Jie, who was at the rear right of the taxi.

Another man, Zon Lim Thou Jung, was seated at the front passenger seat of the taxi. The three men were 22 years old.

The group was heading back to a NUS residential college, Tembusu College, when they were involved in the accident.

Video footage of the accident last year made its rounds online.

The court heard that on the night of 19 April last year, Yap picked up the four passengers from Clementi Mall. Yap did not ensure that his rear passengers were wearing their seat-belts before moving off.

Yap then drove along Commonwealth Avenue West towards Commonwealth Avenue on the rightmost lane. Upon reaching the signalised cross junction of Commonwealth Avenue West by Clementi Road, Yap stopped at the red traffic light. When the traffic light signal turned green, but before the green right turn arrow lit up, Yap drove into the right turn pocket.

He stopped and checked for vehicles coming from the opposite direction. Even though he saw a car coming towards him from the opposite direction at a high speed, he decided to do a right turn.

The 21-year-old car driver, Ng Li Ning, who had the right of way, was unable to avoid the taxi and the two vehicles collided. A Health Sciences Authority report later found that Ng was travelling at a speed of 92 kmh to 97 kmh on a road with a speed limit of 70kmh. The same report also found that had Ng's car been travelling within the speed limit, a collision would likely have been avoidable.

Both cars spun and were severely damaged, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh. The taxi also hit another car which was stationary at the signalised junction.

All the passengers were conveyed to National University Hospital where Ong was pronounced dead at 10.25pm.

Zon Lim suffered from multiple facial lacerations, bruises and glass in his wounds.

Lim Jin Jie received bruises and a fracture to his spine.

Ting had a traumatic brain injury, and became vegetative initially but his condition has since improved. He suffered multiple injuries to his ribs, lung, left kidney and pelvic bone, and was dependent on a ventilator. He is still undergoing rehabilitation.

DPP Koh sought eight weeks' jail for Yap and a disqualification from driving for five years.

The accident claimed Ong’s life and inflicted serious lasting injuries to three others, said the prosecutor. The accused was “aware of the danger approaching but decided to run the risk anyway”, he added.

Yap was fined for several traffic offences up to 2016, including failing to conform to red light signal on three occasions, careless driving and speeding, according to the prosecutor.

Josephus Tan, Yap’s lawyer, asked for six weeks' jail but agreed with the prosecution on the disqualification period.

The lawyer from Invictus Law pointed out that Tan had first checked for oncoming traffic.

"This is in stark contrast to the typical dangerous driving or even careless driving cases whereby the offender simply proceeds to drive through the junction without a single stop whatsoever," said Tan.

Referring to the HSA report, Tan pointed out that the accident might have been avoidable if Ng had been travelling within the speed limit.

Yahoo News Singapore understands that action will be taken against Ng.

For a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, Yap could be jailed up to two years, fined or both. For causing grievous hurt through a negligent act he faces jail of up to two years, or a maximum $5,000 fine, or both.

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