Alexandra Canal accident: Investigator says car did not brake until just before plunging into canal, killing mother and daughter

Three tow trucks hoisting the silver Mercedes Benz that crashed into the Alexandra Canal on Jan 24.
Three tow trucks hoisting the silver Mercedes Benz that crashed into the Alexandra Canal on Jan 24.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The silver Mercedes Benz that crashed into Alexandra Canal on Jan 24, leaving the driver and her daughter dead, did not appear to have braked as it went over the final hump leading out of a mall's basement carpark.

The car shot straight ahead instead of turning right onto the road, hitting a kerb and running into planted bushes.

It then swerved to the left before colliding with the canal's railing at 9.01pm, plunging into the 3m-deep water. Only after it hit the railing did the brake lights come on.


Robin Poon leaving the State Courts on July 4, 2016. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The car, driven by Madam Yep Lay Choo, 51, travelled 14.6m in about 3 seconds before the crash, according to court documents. Her daughter Kimberly Poon, 22, who was in the front passenger seat, also drowned.

"I find that the accident was due to human error. Due to evidence, the police do not suspect any foul play," said senior investigation officer Jegadeeswaran during a Coroner's Inquiry into the deaths on Monday (July 4).

Madam Yep’s husband, Mr Robin Poon, 50, was solemn as he viewed closed-circuit television footage in court, showing the car as it exited the carpark and headed straight through the bushes.

Mechanical inspection of the vehicle showed that damages had been caused by the impact during the accident. No other mechanical defect was found on the vehicle that could have led to the incident.

IO Jegadeeswaran added that "it was possible that Madam Yep was distracted upon leaving the carpark, thus causing the vehicle to shoot straight ahead instead of realising that a turn was required".

Madam Yep's brother, Mr Yep Tai Seng, 50, who is also the owner of the car, said she "was a good driver and very comfortable handling the vehicle".

While she had several speeding records between 1992 and 2012, she had been a cautious driver, said Mr Poon, a car workshop owner.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Poon added: "1992 to 2012, that was when she was in her younger days. Her speeding was not really exceeding speed limit (much)."

 
 
 
 

"I have no doubts in her driving skills," he said.

On Jan 24, Mr Poon had driven his wife and daughter in the silver sedan for lunch at Vagabond Hotel in Syed Alwi Road around 11am. After that, he drove the family for massages at Tras Street and then to Great World City Shopping Centre.

He then headed for a work-related meeting at about 6pm by taxi, and left the Mercedes Benz with Madam Yep. There was nothing out of the ordinary with the vehicle, according to Mr Poon.

That evening, Madam Yep drove the car to Valley Point Shopping Centre for dinner and shopping with her daughter. The duo headed to the carpark basement at 8.54pm.

A WhatsApp conversation between Ms Poon and her friend showed that they were texting between 7.45pm and 8.52pm, when the last message to Ms Poon was sent.

That message was read around 9pm when the incident happened, and could have been something that Madam Yep and Ms Poon discussed in the car, said IO Jegadeeswaran.

Police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived at the scene at 9.11pm, and when the first diver went into the canal, all the car windows were intact but he could not enter the car.

"None of the subjects were in their seats," said IO Jegadeeswaran. Ms Poon was found floating between two seats. Her body was recovered at around 9.30pm.

Madam Yep was found behind the front seats, floating towards the bottom of the car, which had overturned as it entered the water. Her body was recovered at around 9.50pm.

They were subsequently pronounced dead by paramedics.

"I guess I have to accept it. There is nothing I can do," said Mr Poon after the inquiry. "I do miss them, but life has to move on."

State Coroner Marvin Bay is expected to deliver his findings on July 11.