Death of 8-year-old, who was jaywalking with grandfather, a ‘tragic traffic misadventure’

Galen was hit by a car when jaywalking across a road with his grandfather last year.
Galen was hit by a car when jaywalking across a road with his grandfather last year.

An eight-year-old, who was jaywalking with his grandfather at a signalised T-junction not meant for pedestrians in front of New Bridge Road Bus Terminal, died after he was hit by a car last year.

A coroner's court heard yesterday that Galen Ong Zi Jie had walked across almost three lanes of the four-lane Eu Tong Seng Street towards Hill Street at about 6.50pm on Dec 9, when the traffic signal turned from red to green.

Galen and his maternal grandfather Tan Tiong Him, 66, ran towards the road's rightmost lane. But the 1.3m-tall boy ran into the path of an oncoming car travelling at 40kmh to 50kmh.

Mr Tan saw the car and tried to pull Galen back. But the boy was hit by the car and flung onto the second left lane, while Mr Tan fell on the extreme right lane. The boy had skull fractures and bleeding in the brain and died in hospital shortly after midnight. Mr Tan received outpatient treatment.

State Coroner Marvin Bay found Galen's death to be from a "tragic traffic misadventure".

"Without any specific attribution of blame, this case is a stark reminder of the fact that in any jaywalking scenario, children are doubly jeopardised; first, by their diminutive size and stature presenting a low profile, and making them difficult for motorists to detect."

He added that children "generally have a limited ability to independently assess or discern possible dangers of jaywalking or improperly crossing any road not designated as a pedestrian crossing".

In crossing any road, children put their trust in parents or caregivers, he noted. "Where their caregivers make a decision to cross at any point other than a properly designated pedestrian crossing, they may inadvertently place themselves, and their young charges, at risk of serious injury, or worse."

Galen and Mr Tan were on their way home to Everton Park. Although there was an overhead bridge about 20m to 30m away, and a pedestrian crossing 200m away, Mr Tan preferred to cross at that junction and had been doing so for about two months, police investigator Tay Chun Keen testified. Mr Tan claimed he was unsure if the junction was meant for pedestrians.

Galen and Mr Tan had waited until the traffic light was red and cars on the leftmost lanes had stopped before they started to cross. The rightmost lane was clear.

When the traffic signal turned green as they were still crossing, Mr Tan told Galen to hurry. Mr Tan then looked to the right, saw a car approaching from about one car length away, and tried to pull Galen, who was slightly in front of him, back. But the next moment, he heard a loud sound and saw the boy on the road about 10m away.

The driver stopped after she heard a loud sound. She testified she had not seen Galen or Mr Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Boy's death a 'tragic traffic misadventure''. Print Edition | Subscribe