Crash victim's hubby recalls horror of seeing wife 'disappear' from sight
All he heard was a loud crash.
Holding his son, Mr Fakhrizal Nashr turned around to look.
His wife and her sister-in-law-to-be were no longer where they were a moment ago.
Instead, he saw a mangled minibus stuck against the outer wall of the Social Development Network (SDN) compound at Stevens Road.
That was three years ago.
The minibus had hit Mr Fakhrizal's wife, Madam Etty Marlina Syaiful, 28, and Miss Eka Prativi, 22, who were in Singapore with their Indonesian families for a two-day vacation.
The impact was so great that Madam Etty was thrown over the wall and into the SDN compound. Miss Eka lay slumped on the road.
Mr Fakhrizal handed their son, then aged two, to his in-laws before rushing over to help.
Speaking of his wife to The New Paper over the phone from Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday, he said: "One moment, I saw her there. Seconds later, she was gone.
"I rushed over, but I couldn't find her. For about two minutes, I looked about frantically."
When he finally saw her lying unconscious behind the wall, he scaled it to get to her.
Madam Etty, a civil servant, and Miss Eka, a student, died in hospital later.
For causing the deaths of two pedestrians by a rash act, bus driver Yahya Abdul Kader, 47, was yesterday jailed for nine months and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for eight years.
In court, Deputy Public Prosecutor Carene Poh said: "This particular act by the driver caused two deaths and much pain and suffering to the families of these foreign visitors."
Mr Fakhrizal, Madam Etty and Miss Eka were walking to the Orchard Road shopping belt from a relative's home at Balmoral Road with five other family members at around 10am on Nov 12, 2011.
It was their second day in Singapore, and they were due to fly back to Indonesia that night.
As they walked, Madam Etty and Miss Eka were at the back of the group as they were taking pictures of the scenery.
Said Mr Fakhrizal, a Jakarta-based manager at The Nature Conservancy: "I saw that they stopped walking as they were taking pictures. So I continued walking. About 10 seconds later, I heard a loud crash. Just like that, she's gone."
Madam Etty's brother, Mr Endara Prima Wardhana, who was Miss Eka's fiancé, told the police that he also rushed forward.
"While holding Eka in my arms, I was looking out for my sister, and I later saw from the gaps in the wall that she was behind it," he said.
Police investigations revealed that Yahya, a Singaporean, had been travelling on Stevens Road in the direction of Scotts Road, which consisted of a gradual right bend at SDN and had a speed limit of 60kmh.
According to an accident reconstruction report, he had ploughed straight into his two victims, who were standing on the pavement, without making any evasive manoeuvres.
This suggested that the driver did not follow the right-turning bend, said the report.
It concluded that the crash was due to driver error.
Yahya had also told the police that his "vision was blurred" and he had "blacked out" before the crash, but a medical report said there was no cause for his loss of consciousness.
The minibus was not carrying any passengers at the time. It came to a stop after colliding with the outer wall of the SDN compound.
Both victims were taken to the hospital, where they succumbed to multiple injuries.
Yahya also suffered abrasions and chest pains, and was discharged five days later.
He told the court in a written mitigation plea that he was remorseful for what he had done and pleaded for leniency.
He could have been sentenced to five years' jail and fined for causing death by a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide.
Mr Fakhrizal said he had been waiting for justice to be served for a long time.
He said: "For three years, there had been no word about this case. But in these three years, my family has suffered."
He said life has not been easy after the loss of his wife.
His only son, now five years old, needs the care of his parents and in-laws as his work requires him to move around a lot.
Said Mr Fakhrizal: "Even till today, my mother-in-law still cries every time we talk about Etty. There are still bad memories.
"I had considered remarrying because after all, my son needs a mother figure. But it is difficult to talk about it because everyone is still so upset."
He said the sentencing would offer a sense of consolation and closure to the family.
"I'm glad that the court decided that the driver is wrong," he said.
Difference between rash act and negligent act
In the past year, the courts have heard at least four cases of traffic accidents that resulted in death.
The victims were cyclists, pedestrians and foreign workers at the back of a lorry. One of the victims was knocked down by her boyfriend.
All the drivers were handed a driving ban ranging from four to eight years, but their sentences were quite different. (See report above.)
One driver escaped jail time with a fine of $5,000.
So why the difference in punishment?
It depends on whether the driver was charged with a rash act or a negligent act.
The maximum penalty for causing death by a rash act not amounting to homicide is five years in jail, or a fine, or both.
The penalty for a negligent act is lower, with the jail term capped at two years.
AWARENESS OF RISK
Lawyer Edric Pan, a partner in Rodyk & Davidson, said the difference between a rash act and a negligent act is the awareness of risk.
He said: "In a rash act, the driver must be aware, or ought to be aware, that his actions involve the risk of causing injury or death, but he still runs the risk anyway."
Mr Pan uses the example of a motorist driving at high speed towards a crowd of people to illustrate a rash act.
"Although there may have been no intention to cause hurt, any reasonable person would know that his actions would be likely to result in injury or death."
On the other hand, a negligent act involves a person who did not knowingly take a risk, but did not take reasonable care to prevent the accident, he added.
Aggravating factors also matter.
Speeding, driving when over-tired and drink driving would result in a higher sentence, said Mr Pan.
In May, a court of three judges, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, overthrew a longstanding sentencing practice of imposing fines for causing death by negligent driving.
In a 1993 case, former CJ Yong Pung How ruled that if death was caused by a negligent act, a fine would suffice in most cases.
But after examining the case of a woman who was charged with negligent driving, the judges ruled that the "default starting position" in the case of a negligent traffic death should be up to four weeks' imprisonment, subject to aggravating or mitigating factors.
In particular, the presence of aggravating factors would call for a starting point of between two and four months in jail.
The amount of harm caused would also have to be taken into account.
In their written judgment, they said: "We would like to take this opportunity to signal to drivers the consequences of the tremendous risks that they take on, not only to themselves but also to other innocent road users, when they drive despite not being in a fit condition to do so."
- LINETTE HENG
"In a rash act, the driver must be aware, or ought to be aware, that his actions involve the risk of causing injury or death, but he still runs the risk anyway."
— Lawyer Edric Pan
Traffic accidents resulting in death
A driver was jailed for four weeks and banned from the road for five years after he fell asleep at the wheel, then hit and killed a cyclist.
Ambrose Law Tiang Beng, 58, had been driving home from a night out with friends at around midnight on Dec 17 last year, when his Mercedes-Benz piled into Mr Quek Chin Chong as he rode along Thomson Road.
Law could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined for causing death through negligence.
A man was sentenced to 10 months' jail and banned from driving for eight years after his car sideswiped his girlfriend, leading to her fall and death four days later.
Chinese national Liu Zhongwei had driven his Toyota Wish towards her and later made a swift right turn, causing her to fall and hit her head.
Liu could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to $10,000 for rashly causing Ms Li's death.
A woman was jailed for four weeks for negligence and banned from driving for five years after she dozed off while driving and hit a lorry carrying nine workers sitting at the back.
All of them were flung out of the lorry and a worker was killed instantly while another was paralysed from the waist down. The lorry driver and the front passenger were also injured.
Hue An Li was fined $10,000 by the district court, but the prosecution appealed for a heftier sentence for her "gross negligence" in driving after she had not slept for 24 hours.
A lorry driver was fined $5,000 and banned from driving for four years for negligence after he killed a 22-year-old cyclist at a zebra crossing.
Rajendran Mariappan, 44, was found guilty of failing to keep a proper lookout while driving along a slip road on Pioneer North Road at about 11.10pm on Sept 2011.
He also did not slow down or stop as he was required to at the stop line of the zebra crossing, while heading towards International Road at a speed of at least 36kmh. The judge said the deceased had been cycling across the zebra crossing, but should have dismounted and pushed his bicycle across.