Canal crash: Brakes not applied at hump

Rescue workers from SCDF searching the Alexandra Canal after the Mercedes Benz driven by Madam Yep Lay Choo plunged into the waters.
Rescue workers from SCDF searching the Alexandra Canal after the Mercedes Benz driven by Madam Yep Lay Choo plunged into the waters.PHOTO: ST FILE

Investigation officer says human error caused car accident in which mum and daughter died

The silver Mercedes-Benz that crashed into Alexandra Canal on Jan 24, leaving the driver and her daughter dead, did not appear to have braked as it went over the final hump leading out of a mall's basement carpark.

Instead of turning right onto the road on exiting the carpark, it shot straight ahead, hit a kerb and ran into some bushes.

It then swerved to the left before colliding with the canal's railing at 9.01pm on Jan 24, plunging into the 3m-deep water. Only after it hit the railing did the brake lights come on.

The car, driven by Madam Yep Lay Choo, 51, travelled 14.6m in about 3sec after emerging from the carpark, the court heard. Her daughter Kimberly Poon, 22, who was in the front passenger seat, also drowned.

"I find that the accident was due to human error. Due to evidence, the police do not suspect any foul play," said senior investigation officer Jegadeeswaran during a coroner's inquiry into the deaths yesterday.

A WhatsApp conversation between Ms Poon and a friend showed that they were texting between 7.45pm and 8.52pm, when the last message to Ms Poon was sent.

That message was read at around 9pm when the incident happened, and could have been something that the two were discussing in the car, said Mr Jegadeeswaran.

He added that "it was possible that Madam Yep was distracted upon leaving the carpark, thus causing the vehicle to shoot straight ahead instead of realising that a turn was required".

Madam Yep's husband, Mr Robin Poon, 50, was solemn as he viewed closed-circuit television camera footage in court, showing the car as it exited the carpark and headed straight through the bushes.

Mechanical inspection of the vehicle showed that damage to the vehicle stemmed from the impact of the accident. No other mechanical defect was found on the vehicle that could have led to the incident.

Madam Yep's brother, Mr Yep Tai Seng, 50, also the owner of the car, said she "was a good driver and very comfortable handling the vehicle".

While she had a record of several speeding offences between 1992 and 2012, she had been a cautious driver, said Mr Poon, a car workshop owner.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Poon said the incidents happened during "her younger days" and she had not exceeded the speed limit much. "I had no doubts in her driving skills," he added.

On Jan 24, Mr Poon had driven his wife and daughter in the silver sedan for lunch at Vagabond Hotel in Syed Alwi Road around 11am. After that, he drove the family for a massage in Tras Street and then to Great World City shopping centre.

He then headed for a work-related meeting at about 6pm by taxi, and left the car with Madam Yep. There was nothing out of the ordinary with the vehicle, according to Mr Poon.

That evening, Madam Yep drove the car to Valley Point Shopping Centre for dinner and shopping with her daughter. The duo headed to the basement carpark at around 8.54pm.

Police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived at the scene at around 9.11pm, and when the first diver went into the canal, all the car windows were intact. He could not open the car door even though it appeared unlocked.

"None of the subjects were in their seats," said Mr Jegadeeswaran. Ms Poon was found floating between two seats. Her body was recovered at around 9.30pm. Madam Yep was found behind the front seats, floating towards the bottom of the car, which had overturned. Her body was recovered at around 9.50pm. They were subsequently pronounced dead by paramedics.

"I guess I have to accept it. There is nothing I can do," said Mr Poon after the inquiry. "I do miss them, but life has to move on."

State Coroner Marvin Bay is expected to deliver his findings next Monday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline 'Canal crash: Brakes not applied at hump'. Print Edition | Subscribe