West Coast Highway e-bike deaths

West Coast Highway e-bike deaths: Driver may have dozed off, coroner says

Mr Ong Zi Quan, Mr Ang Yee Fong and Mr Marcus Loke Teck Soon were riding along West Coast Highway on their power-assisted bicycles last year when the accident took place.
Mr Ong Zi Quan, Mr Ang Yee Fong and Mr Marcus Loke Teck Soon were riding along West Coast Highway on their power-assisted bicycles last year when the accident took place.PHOTO: SHIN MIN FILE

Poor rest played a big role, and driver's claim of not being sleepy at the time is suspect

A trailer driver who hit and killed two cyclists on West Coast Highway last year could have drifted off to sleep while he was driving, said Coroner Marvin Bay yesterday.

In an inquiry into the deaths of Mr Ong Zi Quan, 19, and Mr Ang Yee Fong, 26, the coroner noted the driver, Mr Sahadevan Senguttuvan, had started work at 7.20am that day, Oct 27. He was still driving when the accident took place minutes before midnight that evening.

Recording the deaths as tragic traffic misadventures, Coroner Bay said: "(Mr Sahadevan) had only taken short meal breaks of 15 to 30 minutes, claimed to have had one hour rest in the evening, and then worked steadily until the time of his fateful final trip. It was entirely plausible fatigue and poor rest played a major role in this case."

On Thursday, the now 35-year-old Indian national testified in court that he was not sleepy despite his long working hours.

Responding yesterday, the coroner said: "He had been working the same gruelling schedule the day before. Mr Sahadevan's claims to not be sleepy or fatigued at the time of the event are highly suspect."

Mr Ong and Mr Ang were riding along the road on their power-assisted bicycles with their friend, Mr Marcus Loke Teck Soon, now 18, when the accident took place.

LIKELY SCENARIO

I accept, therefore, that the most likely scenario is that... Mr Sahadevan had been driving his trailer on the extreme left lane of the four-lane thoroughfare when he completely failed to notice Mr Ang, Mr Ong and Mr Loke, who were cycling ahead of him.

CORONER MARVIN BAY, who noted that the testimony given by trailer driver Sahadevan Senguttuvan was incongruent with evidence.

 

Mr Loke, who was the sole survivor of the incident, testified on Thursday that the trio were on their way to his grandmother's Telok Blangah home at that time. He said that they were cycling in a single file on the extreme left lane when the trailer hit them.

Mr Sahadevan gave a different account on Thursday and said the trio were chatting while sitting abreast on their stationary bicycles on the road, occupying the entire lane.

Coroner Bay said Mr Loke's account was similar to the one given by an independent eyewitness, Mr Supramaniam Thangamani, 56. He said the two men's versions of events were "far more congruent" with video footage of the incident taken from cameras in the vicinity.

The coroner said: "I accept, therefore, that the most likely scenario is that... Mr Sahadevan had been driving his trailer on the extreme left lane of the four-lane thoroughfare when he completely failed to notice Mr Ang, Mr Ong and Mr Loke, who were cycling ahead of him.

"Mr Sahadevan's account of seeing the three riders lined abreast and stationary on the left lane, then cutting into his lane as he shifted right from the extreme left lane is highly dubious, and very likely untrue, going against the grain of the testimonial evidence of Mr Loke, and Mr Supramaniam as well as the scene and CCTV evidence."

It was not mentioned in court whether further action will be taken against the driver.

Following the crash, paramedics pronounced Mr Ang dead at the scene while Mr Ong died in hospital the next day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2017, with the headline 'Driver may have dozed off: Coroner'. Print Edition | Subscribe