Man who drove rental car illegally pleads guilty to causing the death of motorcycle pillion rider

SINGAPORE - He was too young for a driving licence but that did not deter Ong Han You from illegally getting hold of a rental car when he was 17, driving it and causing the death of a motorcycle pillion rider.

On Monday (Aug 13), Ong, now 20 and serving national service, pleaded guilty to three charges, including cheating, negligent driving causing death and failure to render assistance after the accident.

Five other similar charges will be taken into consideration in sentencing.

The court heard that sometime in December 2015, Ong had just finished clubbing with his friends at Club V5, a disco near Orchard Road, between 5am and 6am.

Ong noticed a commotion outside the building and saw a brown wallet on the floor. He picked it up and found a driving licence and an identity card inside, belonging to a man named Tan Chong Hong.

He decided to keep both to cheat car rental companies into renting him vehicles for his personal use, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia.

Sometime in March 2016, Ong asked Tan Jun Jie, 19, to help him rent a car using Mr Tan Chong Hong's identity card and driving licence because he looked older than Ong and would reduce suspicions.

Tan Jun Jie agreed and called car rental company Rent My Car on March 23, 2016.

Later that day, the salesman from the rental company drove a Honda Fit to People's Park Centre and met up with Tan Jun Jie at around 3.30pm.

During the meeting, Tan Jun Jie falsely represented himself as Mr Tan Chong Hong, and rented the car for $300 and paid a $100 deposit. He then handed the car over to Ong.

After using the vehicle for five days, Ong experienced problems with its suspension. He asked Tan Jun Jie to pretend to be Mr Tan Chong Hong again to return the car to the rental company and exchange it for another.

Tan Jun Jie did so, and again cheated the salesman into replacing the car.

About two months later, on May 21, 2016, Ong was taking his 15-year-old girlfriend home in the rented car. He was driving on the right-most lane of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 towards Buangkok Green at about 8am.

Ahead of his car, in the same lane, a motorcycle had stopped at a signalised T-junction. The motorcyclist was intending to turn right, but the traffic light was red.

As Ong's car approached the motorcycle, his right hand slipped off the steering wheel and he lost control of the car. "The car started to veer to the right, and the car then collided forcefully" into the rear of the motorcycle, said DPP Teo.

As a result, the rider, Mr Lim Meng Peng, 55, and his pillion, Ms Lau Lee Kiaw, 45, were flung off the motorcycle.

Ong's car then continued to surge towards traffic on the opposite side of the road and collided with a taxi that was driven by Ms Liau Siok Choo, 50, and carrying two other passengers.

After Ong's car came to a stop, he immediately alighted. He saw Ms Lau lying on the grass, breathing heavily, and called out to her but she did not respond.

He then abandoned his car and left the scene with his girlfriend by flagging down a taxi, said DPP Teo.

Later that day, Ong received a call from Tan Jun Jie, saying that the police had contacted him to ask him what had happened.

Between 1pm and 2pm, Ong surrendered at the Traffic Police headquarters. "The accused decided to surrender himself, as he knew that the police had found out what had happened and that he was the culprit who caused the accident," said DPP Teo.

As a result of the accident, Ms Lau sustained blunt force injuries to her chest and could not be resuscitated. She died at around 9.30am on the day of the accident.

Mr Lim suffered fractures in his spine and ankle, and was hospitalised for five days, while the taxi driver, Ms Liau, suffered from acute stress reaction and pain in her right arm and neck.

Ong and his girlfriend were not injured.

DPP Teo called for the court to sentence Ong to 13 to 15 months' jail, and to disqualify him from driving for eight years.

Ong's lawyer Wijaya R. Sivanathan urged District Judge Jasvender Kaur to sentence him to reformative training for between 18 months and three years. The judge called for a report to assess Ong's suitability for reformative training. He will be back in court on Aug 20.

Tan Jun Jie has been sentenced to reformative training.