A lorry driver in the accident which killed three pedestrians in 2018, may have blacked out during the accident due to his heart condition.
State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam released her findings on Wednesday (15 July) stating that Xu Kai Xiang’s congenital heart disease could have led to his black out at the time of the accident on 23 April 2018.
These findings came nine months after the coroner’s inquiry began on 3 Oct 2019.
It was an “unfortunate road traffic misadventure,” Ms Ponnampalam said, adding that there is “no basis to suspect foul play”.
Background of Accident
At about 9.30am, Xu who was driving a Toyota lorry to collect a parcel, swerved to the left, crashed into a stationary SBS double-decker bus before mounting the curb and crashing into three pedestrians – father and daughter Chua Cheng Thong, 86, and Gina Chua Aye Wah, 58 — and a family friend Yap Soon Huat, 63. All three were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
This took place near Yio Chu Kang MRT, along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 heading in the direction towards Marymount Road.
Xu claimed he suffered a blackout where he “lost his mind and everything”. He testified during the inquiry that on the day of the accident, he had a momentary blackout after experiencing blurry vision and a heaviness in his head.
He said that he tried to keep his eyes open but was unable to.
Before crashing, he said the last thing he recalled was travelling straight on the road. When he regained consciousness, he found his leg pinned and his lorry crashed.
Xu was a safety supervisor at his father’s company. His father said that he was not aware his son did not possess the appropriate license to operate a lorry.
On 3 Oct 2019, he was fined $1,400 and banned from driving for a year on the two counts of driving a lorry without a relevant licence and insurance. He needed a Class 3 licence but Xu only had a Class 3A licence, which is only for automatic transmission vehicles.
According to the charge sheet against Xu, there is a third charge of driving his lorry “in a manner which was dangerous to the public”, and “failing to have a proper control” of the vehicle. He was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on the same day.
A discharge not amounting to an acquittal means that Xu can still be prosecuted for the offence later, depending on further evidence that is found.
If convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, Xu could be sentenced up to five years’ jail.
But with the findings released by Ms Ponnampalam, the charge of dangerous driving may be ruled out against the Chinese national and Singapore permanent resident. Thus, the 28-year-old may not be looking at this sentence.
Family members of the victims who were present at the hearing told reporters in court on Wednesday that they will be filing a civil lawsuit against Xu as they rejected the coroner’s findings.
The Chua family had previously said that Xu made inconsistent claims and given that he had been dishonest in the past about his driving licence, they believed that he had been tired and fell asleep while driving instead of blacking out.
Xu is said to have been diagnosed with severe heart disease when he was less than two years old and has since gone for three surgeries.
However, he stopped going for check-ups in March 2013 because he was declared “free of symptoms and presented with “fairly good” cardiac functions. He was also not warned against driving by the doctors.
However, medical reports stated that he had experienced mild episodes of darkened vision over the past few years before the accident.
He did not get further medical help or inform his employer about it.
When asked why he stopped going for medical appointments, he said that he was working in China then and did not reschedule any after returning to Singapore as he was “feeling fine”.
An independent medical expert and cardiologist said that had he attended regular follow-up appointments, his worsening condition could have been caught.
State Coroner Kamala echoed these by saying Xu would have benefitted from regular monitoring of his condition for the five years lapsed.