A bus driver was jailed for a week yesterday for causing an accident that resulted in an elderly passenger's foot being amputated.
SMRT driver Lau Pik Choong, 53, drove off while Madam Ting Lan Kin was alighting, causing her to fall onto the road before the bus stopped again - with her leg lodged under its rear left tyre.
Lau, a Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing grievous hurt by a negligent act. He will be barred from driving all classes of vehicles for 1 ½ years after his release.
District Judge Eddy Tham told Lau that he had no excuse for the accident. "You, as a public bus driver, owe a high duty of care for the safety of all the commuters on the bus. You have to ensure that each passenger alights and boards safely.
"You could have easily avoided this tragic situation by watching to ensure that she had fully alighted before closing the door and moving off. Your gross negligence was the sole cause of the victim sustaining grievous hurt," he said.
When The Straits Times visited Madam Ting last night, the widow said she was already trying to move past the incident, despite still feeling the occasional pain from dry skin cracking at the bottom of her stump.
When told about the bus driver's sentence, she said in dialect: "It doesn't matter to me; I want to let the matter rest. I'm already so old but he still has a family to feed."
Madam Ting's family has hired a helper to care for her. The 89-year- old lives with her daughter and son-in-law at a flat in Tampines.
"I miss going to the market and cooking for my family, but they will bring me around the neighbourhood regularly on my wheelchair."
The court heard that at about 1pm on April 3 last year, Madam Ting was at the back of bendy bus service 913 near the rear exit. She pressed the buzzer to get off at a stop in Woodlands Centre Road.
Madam Ting walked slowly because of her age and before she could reach the exit, Lau closed the door. Another passenger pressed the buzzer to alert the driver and Lau opened the rear exit door again.
Madam Ting slowly made her way down the steps of the exit. When she was on the last step, with one foot on the ground, Lau drove off without closing the door.
The court heard that he did not check his mirror or a monitor on his dashboard.
Madam Ting's left leg was run over by the vehicle's rear left tyre.
Passengers shouted at Lau and he immediately stopped the bus. As Madam Ting's left leg was pinned under the tyre, he slowly reversed the bus in order to free her.
Madam Ting was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where the front of her left foot had to be amputated. She was hospitalised for a total of seven weeks.
Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok asked for one to two weeks' jail, noting that Lau was grossly negligent in his primary duty, which was to allow passengers to board and alight safely. "His selfish act deprived the victim of a limb," he said.
Lau, who did not have a lawyer, pleaded against a jail term, saying it would result in him losing his job.
SMRT has apologised to Madam Ting's family and suspended the bus driver.
SMRT's vice-president of corporate information and communications Patrick Nathan said: "All bus captains are reminded to put the safety of commuters first."