Cabby jailed for knocking down and killing passenger he was trying to pick up

Tan Hie Koon, 51, had driven his vehicle into the Geylang area at around 4am on Sept 17, 2010, in search of a last fare for the night. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Tan Hie Koon, 51, had driven his vehicle into the Geylang area at around 4am on Sept 17, 2010, in search of a last fare for the night. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - A cabby who knocked down and killed a passenger he was trying to pick up was sentenced to six months in prison and banned from driving for eight years on Thursday.

Tan Hie Koon, 51, had driven his vehicle into the Geylang area at around 4am on Sept 17, 2010, in search of a last fare for the night.

He ran into Ms Bui Thi Hon Mai, 31, who had just had supper with friends and was standing on the far right lane of Geylang Road to flag a taxi.

After knocking her down, Tan's vehicle mounted the kerb and crashed into a pillar supporting a row of shophouses.

The Vietnamese national suffered multiple injuries and was pronounced dead on the spot.

Tan claimed during a six-day trial that he had heard a "pom" sound just before the accident, adding that the steering wheel had swung to the right on its own.

His lawyer Peter Ong argued, among other things, that the taxi's front left tyre had suddenly deflated just before the collision and that the crash was caused by a mechanical fault.

District Judge Low Wee Ping convicted Tan on Jan 12 this year, finding that evidence given by an expert witness for the defence was "speculative".

He agreed with the prosecution that Tan had been driving at 78km/h before the accident, which was excessive given the speed limit for that stretch of road was just 50km/h.

Tan then swerved across two lanes towards his would-be passenger, but ended up knocking her down, the judge found.

Tan is appealing against both his conviction and sentence, and is out on $15,000 bail. He had a clean record since getting his driving licence in 1982, his lawyer said. He is now unemployed and has not driven since the accident.

For causing death by a rash act, he could have been jailed for up to five years and fined.

pohian@sph.com.sg