SINGAPORE - The deaths of five men after a car crashed in Tanjong Pagar on Feb 13 last year and burst into flames has been ruled a traffic-related misadventure.
Delivering his findings on Wednesday (Aug 24) in an inquiry into the men's deaths, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said the sad and tragic event involved the deaths of five men who were in the prime of their lives.
State Coroner Nakhoda added that this case serves to remind other motorists not to operate vehicles when they are under the influence of alcohol.
One of the men, Mr Jonathan Long Junwei, 29, had clocked speeds of up to 182kmh while he was driving the white BMW M4 in the area, shortly before it ploughed into the pillar of a shophouse and burst into flames at around 5.40am that day.
It was travelling at an estimated speed of between 87kmh and 99kmh at the point of impact. The speed limit for the stretch along Tanjong Pagar Road is 50kmh.
State Coroner Nakhoda described the speed Mr Long was driving as staggering and said there was a shocking lack of consideration and a disregard for his own safety, as well as that of his passengers and other road users.
Prior to the accident, which happened on the second day of Chinese New Year in 2021, State Coroner Nakhoda said it appeared that Mr Long had intended to show the others how fast the car could be driven and that there was an element of bravado to it.
Three others had driven the car before the accident, and before Mr Long took the wheel, there was no evidence he cajoled the others to get in the car and they appeared to have got in of their own volition, State Coroner Nakhoda said.
An autopsy later showed that Mr Long, who had recently bought the car, had a blood alcohol reading of 86mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This exceeded the legal limit of 80mg per 100ml.
His four passengers were also killed in the crash.
They were: Mr Wilson Teo Qi Xiang, 26; Mr Elvin Tan Yong Hao, 28; Mr Eugene Yap Zheng Min, 29; and Mr Gary Wong Hong Chieh, 29.
In February last year, the police said this case involved the most number of people killed in a single traffic accident in the past decade.
During earlier proceedings in June involving the inquiry, Traffic Police investigator, Senior Staff Sergeant Muhammad Firdaus Suleiman, told the court that shortly before the tragedy, Mr Long and his friends were at a Chinese New Year gathering in Ang Mo Kio where they had consumed alcoholic drinks.
They then left for Hong Jja Jang restaurant in Tanjong Pagar Road, where they continued drinking. The eatery was run by Mr Park Se Jin, whose age was not mentioned in court.
Senior Staff Sgt Firdaus added that witnesses said Mr Long later decided to show his newly purchased BMW to his friends.
The group took turns at the wheel, each driving once around the Tanjong Pagar area.
Mr Yap, who was later found to have 119mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, was the first to take it for a ride that morning. He drove it from the Tanjong Pagar restaurant towards Keppel, and made a U-turn on Enggor Street.
After that, he drove the car along Tanjong Pagar Road towards Maxwell Road before stopping near the eatery.
The court heard that Mr Yap had driven the car at speeds of between 77kmh and 88kmh.
Mr Park then took the wheel and drove at speeds of up to 59kmh while following the same path.
A woman identified as Ms Phoo Yi Lin then took over. She also followed the same path, clocking speeds of between 109kmh and 130kmh.
But dashcam footage taken from a taxi in the area suggested Ms Phoo may have hit speeds of up to 181kmh, said Senior Staff Sgt Firdaus.
Mr Long was the fourth driver, and four of his friends - Mr Teo, Mr Tan, Mr Yap and Mr Wong - joined him in the vehicle, which had designated seats for only the driver and three passengers.
Mr Long was speeding along Tanjong Pagar Road when the car skidded and mounted a kerb. The car's airbags did not deploy in the accident that killed all five men.
Mr Long's fiancee, former air stewardess Raybe Oh Siew Huey, then 26, tried to help the occupants but got badly burned.
She spent four months at Singapore General Hospital and needed multiple reconstructive surgical operations.
Senior Staff Sgt Firdaus testified that Mr Long, Mr Yap and Mr Tan died of severe burns.
Mr Teo died of severe burns and a spinal injury, while Mr Wong died of severe burns and pelvic injuries.
The five men who were killed
The five men had one common link – all had at one time worked as representatives for Aviva Financial Advisers.
Mr Wilson Teo Qi Xiang, 26; Mr Elvin Tan Yong Hao, 28; Mr Eugene Yap Zheng Min, 29 and Mr Jonathan Long Junwei, 29, were financial advisers at the firm when the tragedy occurred.
The fifth man, Mr Gary Wong Hong Chieh, 29, was a former representative for the company at the time.
Here are more details about the men:
1. Mr Long
- Driver of the car when it crashed.
- Clocked speeds of up to 182kmh before it crashed. The speed limit for the stretch along Tanjong Pagar Road was 50kmh.
- After an autopsy, he was found to have a blood alcohol reading of 86mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This exceeded the legal limit of 80mg per 100ml.
- Died of severe burns.
2. Mr Yap
- Had 119mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood when he drove the car that morning.
- Drove the car at speeds of between 77kmh and 88kmh.
- Was a co-founder of local bubble tea chain Bober Tea.
- Died of severe burns.
3. Mr Wong
- Was a long-time friend of Mr Long and Mr Tan.
- Studied IT at the Singapore Management University before starting a career in financial services.
- Was involved in volunteer work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Died of severe burns and pelvic injuries.
4. Mr Teo
- Died of severe burns and spinal injury.
5. Mr Tan
- Died of severe burns.