SIA pilot to be charged over New Zealand car crash

The New Zealand police have filed charges against a 32-year-old man over the car crash on Wednesday that left two Singapore Airlines (SIA) crew members seriously injured.

The suspect is believed to be a first officer with the airline. He will appear in the Christchurch District Court today, where he will be officially charged with two counts of ''reckless driving causing injury''.

''If convicted, he could be fined up to NZ$20,000 (S$20,020) and jailed a maximum of five years,'' said a New Zealand Canterbury police spokesman, adding that he could also be disqualified from driving in the country for a year.

The suspect was driving a Toyota car with four other SIA crew members near the town of Rolleston when it crashed into a four-wheel-drive towing a horse trailer at a cross-junction.

Two of the SIA staff, the New Zealand driver and the horse were not injured. The SIA crew members who were not hurt have since returned home, according to the New Zealand police.

But chief steward Chew Weng Wai remains in critical condition, while stewardess Vanessa Coehlo is in stable condition following surgery. Both are still in Christchurch Public Hospital.

All five SIA staff were part of the crew on Flight SQ297 that arrived in Christchurch from Singapore on Tuesday morning.

When contacted, SIA declined to comment further on its staff, citing its privacy policy.

''Our priority has not changed, which is to provide our staff and their families the highest standard of care and assistance,'' said an airline spokesman.

The New Zealand police are still investigating the cause of the crash.

dansonc@sph.com.sg