Man jailed for driving SMRT bus over alighting passenger's foot, resulting in its amputation

Madam Ting Lan Kin at her home in Tampines on April 27, 2016.
Madam Ting Lan Kin at her home in Tampines on April 27, 2016. PHOTO: WONG SHIYING
Lau Pik Choong was jailed for a week for accidentally driving over an alighting passenger's foot, which later had to be amputated.
Lau Pik Choong was jailed for a week for accidentally driving over an alighting passenger's foot, which later had to be amputated.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A public bus driver drove off while the vehicle's rear door was still open, causing an elderly passenger - who was still alighting - to fall out of the bus and onto the road.

The bus' rear left tyre then ran over Madam Ting Lan Kin's left foot, which later had to be amputated.

On Wednesday (April 27), SMRT driver Lau Pik Choong, 53, was jailed for a week, having pleaded guilty to a charge of causing grievous hurt by a negligent act.

The Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia will also be barred from driving all classes of vehicles for 18 months after his release.

When The Straits Times visited 89-year-old Madam Ting on Wednesday night, the widow said she was already trying to move past the incident, despite still feeling the occasional pain from dry skin cracking on the bottom of her stump. When told about the bus driver's sentence, she said in dialect: "It doesn't matter to me, I want to let the matter rest. I'm already so old but he still has a family to feed."

Her family has hired a helper to care for Madam Ting, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law in a flat at Tampines.

"I miss going to market and cooking for my family, but they will bring me around the neighbourhood regularly on my wheelchair," she said.

A district court heard that at about 1 pm on April 3 last year, Madam Ting, then 88, sat at the back of bendy bus service 913 near the rear exit. She pressed the buzzer when the bus was approaching a stop along Woodlands Centre Road, towards Admiralty Road.

She remained seated until the bus came to a complete stop, and then made her way to the exit. She walked slowly due to her age.

But before she could reach the exit, Lau closed the door. Another passenger saw this and pressed the buzzer to alert the driver. Lau then opened the rear exit door again.

Madam Ting made her way down the steps of the exit, slowly. As she was on the last step of the bus, with one foot on the ground and the other on the step, Lau drove off without closing the rear exit door.

He did not check his external side mirror overlooking the rear exit from outside the bus, or a monitor on his dashboard with a view of the exit from within the bus.

Madam Ting fell out of the bus and her left leg was run over by the vehicle's rear left tyre.

Passengers shouted at Lau and he immediately stopped the bus. As Madam Ting's left leg was pinned under the tyre, he reversed the busto free her leg.

She was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. The front part of her left foot had to be amputated that same day as her injuries were too serious. She was hospitalised for a total of seven weeks.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok asked for one to two weeks' jail, noting that Lau was grossly negligent in his primary duty, which was to allow passengers to board and alight safely.

In mitigation, Lau, who did not have a lawyer, said he looks after his father who is in his 80s.

He also pleaded against a jail term, saying it would result in him losing his job with SMRT.

In passing sentence, District Judge Eddy Tham told Lau: "You, as a public bus driver, owe a high duty of care for the safety of all the commuters on the bus. You have to ensure that each passenger alights and boards safely."

"As the victim was moving slowly you ought to have paid more careful attention to the victim. You have no excuse," the judge said.

Noting that Lau failed to check both his side mirror and dashboard, the judge added: "You could have easily avoided this tragic situation by watching to ensure that she had fully alighted before closing the door and moving off. Your gross negligence was the sole cause of the victim sustaining grievous hurt."

Madam Ting, now 89, is a retired widow with five children and two grandchildren.

SMRT had earlier apologised to her family and suspended the bus driver.

The maximum punishment for causing grievous hurt by doing a negligent act which endangers human life or the personal safety of others is two years' jail and a $5,000 fine.