Cabby's death in freak accident 'a misadventure'

Mr Ong died in the freak accident just days before he was to celebrate his 60th birthday with his family. His neck and right hand were wedged between the taxi body and door.
Mr Ong died in the freak accident just days before he was to celebrate his 60th birthday with his family. His neck and right hand were wedged between the taxi body and door.PHOTO: MR ONG'S FAMILY

He likely and unintentionally released foot brake, said coroner

Just days before he was to celebrate his 60th birthday and Father's Day with his family, taxi driver Ong Kha Lee died in a freak accident while paying a cashier at his company headquarters.

While still belted to his seat, Mr Ong had opened the driver's door of his silver Premier taxi to pick up some cash that he had dropped on the ground.

But the taxi moved forward and closer to a wall, wedging his neck and right hand between the door and body of the cab.

Mr Ong was taken unconscious to hospital, where he died the next day, on June 15, three days before he would have turned 60.

On Wednesday, State Coroner Marvin Bay found his death to be an unfortunate misadventure.

"Mr Ong had likely and unintentionally released the foot brake when he reached forward out of his car in an attempt to pick up items that had fallen to the ground.

HOW TRAGEDY OCCURRED

Mr Ong had likely and unintentionally released the foot brake when he reached forward out of his car in an attempt to pick up items that had fallen to the ground.

STATE CORONER MARVIN BAY, on taxi driver Ong Kha Lee's death.

"Mr Ong's sad demise does underscore the importance of ensuring that a vehicle's brakes are fully deployed before any attempt is made to leave the vehicle," said Mr Bay.

Automatic transmission cars should be placed in "park" mode, he said, as there is a tendency for them to continue moving slowly forward if the "drive" mode is not disengaged.

Mr Ong had driven to Premier Taxis' headquarters in Changi South Avenue 2 to fuel up at about 7.35pm on June 14. He had been a taxi driver for the past seven to eight years, and joined Premier about two years ago.

At 7.42pm, as he reached out of the taxi window to pay a cashier $26 for diesel, he accidentally dropped some $10 notes and a payment slip onto the ground.

The cashier advised Mr Ong to drive forward first and make payment later. However, Mr Ong opened the driver's door and reached towards the ground to pick up the cash and payment slip.

The taxi then moved forward, trapping him between the taxi body and door. Mr Ong shouted for help as the taxi continued forward. He lost consciousness shortly after and blood seeped out of his mouth.

He was taken to hospital with no pulse, bleeding from his nose and ears. He also had a fractured rib. The cabby died at about 11.25am the next morning.

A forensic pathologist found that he died from traumatic asphyxia, which means he was crushed and suffocated.

A mechanical inspection did not find any problems with the taxi.

Mr Ong's wife, Madam Christina Mak, 57, had told Shin Min Daily News that she was waiting for him to get home when his company called with news of the accident.

Mr Ong also leaves behind two daughters, aged 25 and 30.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2016, with the headline 'Cabby's death in freak accident 'a misadventure''. Print Edition | Subscribe