SINGAPORE: The motorist who killed a Singaporean and three South Koreans in an accident along the Central Expressway on National Day two years ago pleaded guilty on Tuesday (May 12).
Toh Cheng Yang, 35, was convicted of one count of dangerous driving causing death and another of driving under the influence of drugs.
“The court has never dealt with such a horrific accident involving four deaths by a traffic offender,” said District Judge Low Wee Ping, who adjourned sentencing for the prosecution and defence to make further submissions. He said he was “too shaken” upon seeing photographs of the accident to make a decision on Tuesday.
The court heard that in the early hours on Aug 9, 2013, Toh, who had overdosed on a tranquilising and sedative drug, was seen driving above the speed limit along the CTE “in an erratic manner”. His car swayed between the second and centre lanes of the five-lane expressway, and nearly collided into a black van after Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5.
At about 3.54am, Toh, who was heading towards the Yio Chu Kang exit, crashed into the four victims who were standing behind a car that had stopped on the chevron marking before the exit to Yio Chu Kang Road.
South Korean Ms Song Jisoo, 24, and her parents, Ms Kim Mee-Kyung, 53, and Mr Song Jungwoo, 55, were killed instantly, while Ms Song’s boyfriend, Singaporean trainee pilot Amron Ayoub, 23, died in the hospital shortly after.
The massive collision had sheared off part of Ms Kim’s arm and caused near-amputations of several of the other deceased persons’ limbs.
The court heard that Mr Amron was driving the other three deceased and Ms Song’s elder brother, Mr Song Seounghwan, towards Changi Airport when his car’s tyre went flat. Mr Amron stopped his car, without the hazard lights turned on, and alighted with his passengers to retrieve the breakdown sign and tools for changing the punctured tyre, the court was told. Mr Song Seounghwan was unscathed as he was standing beside the car when the crash happened.
The rear of Mr Amron’s car was crumpled by the crash and its roof dented, while Toh’s car sustained a crumpled front portion, shattered windscreen and damages in its front wheels.
Toh was sent to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for treatment as he complained of chest and back pain, but no visible injuries were noted on him.
Further investigations by the Health Sciences Authority found that Toh had consumed between five to 15 times the therapeutic level of nitrazepam – a prescription drug used to treat insomnia and convulsions – without a prescription. This was more than twice the amount of nitrazepam which ordinarily gives rise to toxic effects, the court heard.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Winston Man sought a five-year jail term – the maximum penalty for the dangerous driving charge – adding that Toh had put himself in a position “where (an) accident was almost inevitable”. Toh’s unauthorised and overconsumption of nitrazepam had rendered him unfit to function at all, let alone drive, charged DPP Man.
He added that Toh has not learnt his lesson despite having been convicted in the past for multiple drug-related offences.
In mitigation, Toh’s lawyer Abdul Hamid Sultan said that Toh is prone to anxiety due to a failed marriage and financial issues, and was prescribed drugs for relaxation. He had been anxious about crucial business negotiations on the day of the accident, said Mr Abdul Hamid, who asked for a 30-month jail term and S$3,000 fine.