News

Car's bumper pulled off

He has been driving regularly through the Woodlands Checkpoint to come to Singapore to work for the past decade.

But last Thursday at about 11am, renovation contractor Johnson Tai, 38,got a rude shock.

Just after the Malaysian drove his car forward to exit from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) checkpoint when the green light signal came on, he heard the vehicle hitting something in front.

"I did not know what I had hit as I could not see anything in front of my car. But I reversed just to be safe," Mr Tai said.

That was when he heard a loud metal scraping sound. Mr Tai immediately stopped the car.

When he got out to check, he was shocked to find the front bumper detached from his car, with a part of it still pierced by a spike barrier about a metre in front.

The spike barrier, known as "Catsclaw", is a security feature used at the immigration checkpoints to immobilise vehicles that try to evade security checks.

DIDN'T SEE IT

Mr Tai, a Singaporean permanent resident who has homes here and in Johor Baru, said: "The spike barrier must have come up after I drove off as I did not see it initially, and when I reversed the car, it pulled the entire bumper off.

"If I had driven off a bit faster, I'm pretty sure the spikes would have hit the car's engine too."

He added that just before he drove off, the officer who was attending to him left his post.

"I was very confused in that moment because the light had changed from red to green, but there was no one to confirm that I could leave."

Not wanting to keep the drivers behind him waiting, he decided to heed the green light.

Instead, his damaged car ended up holding up the queue and the motorists behind had to be diverted to exit.

After the incident, about 10 ICA officers rushed to the scene, Mr Tai said.

He was furious that the spike barrier had been activated without warning and he kept asking the officers for an explanation.

"They were very apologetic and told me to wait for the police and Land Transport Authority personnel to come and inspect the scene first," he said.

Mr Tai ended up waiting for about three hours for the authorities to complete their inspections.

His car was towed away after 2pm, and an ICA officer told him that he could file a claim against the authorities, Mr Tai said.

An insurance claims officer, who is assisting Mr Tai, said they were still clueless about the claims submission process five days after the incident.

Wanting to be known only as Ms Jen, she told The New Paper: "The surveyor from a motorcar diagnostic service company went to the workshop to inspect the car only on Monday and until now, ICA still has not told us how and whom we should submit the claims to."

'NOT LIABLE'

She said she was surprised when an ICA representative told her the authorities "may not be liable for the damages".

Ms Jen said that repair works on the car could begin only on Monday after the car had been inspected, and could be returned to Mr Tai at the end of the week.

When contacted, an ICA spokesman said that maintenance was being carried out on its security systems last Thursday when the incident happened and investigations were ongoing.

She added that ICA has contacted Mr Tai to render him advice, without explaining what the advice was about.

Lawyer Pritam Singh of Pritam Singh Gill & Co, said a claim could be filed against ICA if negligence was involved in the activation of the spike barrier and that it should be submitted to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Mr Tai said the incident had inconvenienced him as he was forced to postpone his work due to the loss of time and his car.

He is using a car provided by his insurance company for the time being and hopes the case can be resolved soon.

"Honestly, this is just a small matter to me. I take it that I was unlucky that day.

"But I hope that I don't have to pursue the matter further," Mr Tai said.