An SMRT bendy bus driver found out the hard way that even a big field can be the wrong place to make a U-turn.
Sometime after midnight yesterday, the driver made a wrong turn near Kim Keat Avenue, wound up on a narrow road and in a sticky situation when he tried to make a U-turn in a nearby field.
The bus got stuck, after its wheels and part of its body sank into the ground. It took 10 hours and repeated attempts before the bus was finally removed. In the meantime, residents in the area near Toa Payoh woke up to the strange sight of a bendy bus stuck in a field. Pictures of the marooned vehicle were widely shared on Facebook yesterday.
The Straits Times understands that the driver involved was driving a No. 67 bus, which was off-service and heading to Kranji Depot.
While SMRT did not respond to questions on the route the driver was taking, "bus spotter" Glen Soh, 18, a student, said SMRT drivers have told him a typical route to Kranji Depot from Tampines Interchange - Service 67 links Tampines and Choa Chu Kang - is via Tampines Expressway, Seletar Expressway and Bukit Timah Expressway.
SMRT vice-president for corporate information and communications Patrick Nathan said the bus driver was returning the vehicle to the depot early yesterday morning when he took a wrong turn and tried to make a U-turn in the field.
The bendy bus, which can carry about 50 per cent more passengers than the usual 12m single-deck bus, was eventually pulled out by a tow truck. This was after futile attempts earlier to level the bus so it could be driven out, which is the usual way to tow vehicles.
Mr Seah Hui Chou, manager of tow truck operator People's Vehicle Recovery Service, said this was the first time he had seen such an incident in his 19 years in the business.
With the permission of SMRT, his team used a "rougher" method - securing a chain to a part of the rear end of the chassis to pull the bus out of the mud. "Because it is stuck, pulling it may cause unforeseen damage, but the usual way didn't work," said Mr Seah.
The bus was hauled to the entrance of the field. From there, another SMRT driver reversed it onto the road before it was towed away.
Said Mr Nathan: "We apologise to residents who may have been affected by the noise during the recovery."
Mr Terence Low, 39, who lives in Block 256 opposite the field, heard an engine revving repeatedly at about midnight and went to see if he could help.
While he could do nothing about the bus, he gave the driver a banana for breakfast when he was leaving for work at 6.45am.
Mr Low, who works in the banking industry, said: "The soil was soft because the space was converted to a field just three to four months ago. It used to be a carpark."
Mr Derrick Lee, 41, a businessman who was holding a wake for his father at the void deck of the same block, said he was surprised the bus even drove in.
"Even my son's school bus doesn't enter that road because it's too narrow," he said.