A FORMER logistics operations director who caused the deaths of four people in a horrific accident was given the maximum five years in jail yesterday, with the judge calling it the "ultimate traffic offence".
Not only did Toh Cheng Yang ram his car into the victims at high speed, but he also did so under the heavy influence of a drug which causes drowsiness and impairs motor skills.
The 36-year-old, who was also banned from driving for 20 years, is however appealing against the sentence.
He had admitted that his dangerous driving caused the deaths of a Singaporean trainee pilot, his Korean girlfriend and her parents on the Central Expressway (CTE) on Aug 9, 2013.
Toh also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of nitrazepam - a prescription drug used to treat insomnia and convulsions - to such an extent that he was incapable of having proper control of his Honda Stream multi-purpose vehicle.
The victims had been standing at the back of their car, which had stopped at the chevrons before the exit to Yio Chu Kang Road, to retrieve a breakdown sign and tools for changing a punctured tyre when Toh ploughed into them just before 4am.
Singaporean Amron Ayoub, 23, had been driving his accountant girlfriend, Ms Song Ji Soo, 24, her golfer brother Song Seoung Hwan, 32, and parents Song Jung Woo, 55, and Kim Mee Kyung, 53, to Changi Airport.
Ms Song and her parents died on the spot, while Mr Amron died later in hospital. Ms Song's brother, who had remained at the right rear passenger door of the vehicle, survived the accident unhurt.
District Judge Low Wee Ping said Toh had "practically almost wiped out an entire family". "You have also committed one of the most reprehensible traffic offences. You drove under the influence of drugs. You had between five and 15 times above the therapeutic level of nitrazepam. It was more than twice the amount which would produce toxicity."
The judge explained that the case thus fell within the band of cases for which the maximum sentence should be imposed.
Toh was observed swaying between lanes along the CTE after drinking at a pub, and also seen speeding at between 90kmh and 110kmh. Just before the collision, he did not apply his brakes and was apparently trying to take the exit when he headed directly for the chevrons.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Winston Man said Toh had previous convictions for drug-related offences and compounded his "utterly irresponsible behaviour" by driving at high speeds.
He called for a signal to be sent that hazardous driving, especially that which needlessly causes death or injury to other road users, will be punished harshly.
Online, many questioned if a five-year jail sentence was enough. But Mr Ayoub Ahmat, 53, the father of the killed Singaporean, believes the law has dealt fairly with the accused.
"At the end of the day it's an accident; there's no intention," he told The Straits Times yesterday. "What happened will continue to haunt him. He also has his own family. I think the (court) has made the right decision."
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY HOE PEI SHAN