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Lorry driver in fatal Yio Chu Kang accident had congenital heart disease that could have led to blackout: Coroner

​SINGAPORE — A 28-year-old lorry driver, who ploughed into three pedestrians near Yio Chu Kang MRT Station in April 2018, could have blacked out behind the wheel as a result of his congenital heart disease.

Lorry driver in fatal Yio Chu Kang accident had congenital heart disease that could have led to blackout: Coroner

The scene of an accident near Yio Chu Kang MRT Station that killed three people on April 23, 2018.

  • Mr Xu Kai Xiang was fined S$1,400 last year for not having a relevant licence and insurance
  • He was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal over the death of three pedestrians
  • The state coroner said his heart condition could have led to his blackout

 

SINGAPORE — A 28-year-old lorry driver, who ploughed into three pedestrians near Yio Chu Kang MRT Station in April 2018, could have blacked out behind the wheel as a result of his congenital heart disease. 

Mr Xu Kai Xiang was diagnosed with severe heart disease when he was less than two years old and has since gone for three surgeries. 

In her coroner’s inquiry findings released on Wednesday (July 15), State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said that Mr Xu’s blackout could have been caused by his condition and that the accident was an “unfortunate road traffic misadventure”. 

She added that there was no basis to suspect foul play.

The accident, which happened along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6, killed a father-daughter pair — Chua Cheng Thong, 86, and Gina Chua Aye Wah, 58 — and their family friend Yap Soon Huat, 63. 

Mr Xu, then a safety supervisor at his father’s company, was fined S$1,400 and banned from driving for a year last October, after he pleaded guilty to two charges of driving the firm’s lorry without the relevant licence and insurance. 

The Chinese national and Singapore permanent resident was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for causing the three victims’ death by driving dangerously.

It is not yet known if the charge will be revived. He had been given the discharge pending the findings of the coroner’s inquiry.

Members of the Chua family told reporters in court on Wednesday that they do not accept the findings and will file a civil lawsuit against Mr Xu.

WHAT HAPPENED

At around 9.30am on April 23 in 2018, Mr Xu lost control of his lorry, mounted the kerb and hit the railings, before surging forward and hitting the victims.

The younger Chua was taking her father to the hospital for a medical check-up that morning.

The lorry also ploughed into a stationary double-decker bus, partially shattering its windscreen. 

Mr Xu drove the company’s workers every day and was on his way to collect a parcel when the accident took place.

To drive the lorry, he needed a Class 3 qualified driving licence but he had only a Class 3A licence, which is for automatic transmission vehicles.

Mr Xu’s father thought that his son had the necessary licence to drive the vehicle. 

DEFAULTED ON MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS 

On Wednesday, State Coroner Kamala said that Mr Xu had been driving at between 61km/h and 69km/h before the accident.

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 could not.

His last memory was of travelling straight on the road before he felt an impact. When he regained consciousness, he realised his leg was pinned and his lorry was in an awkward position.

He was eventually taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where he told doctors that he had not fallen asleep at the wheel. 

He denied using any electronic devices and said that he was not under any medication except for paracetamol that he took in the morning for a cough. 

Mr Xu further testified that in 2017, he had dozed off at work “for less than three seconds” while supervising a worker. 

This was unlike the most recent blackout where he “lost his mind and everything”.

The Chua family said that Mr Xu made inconsistent claims and given that he had been untruthful in the past about his driving licence, they suggested that he had been tired and fell asleep while driving.  

When questioned on why he had defaulted on his cardiac appointments after 2013, Mr Xu said that he was working in China then and did not reschedule them after returning to Singapore as he was “feeling fine”.

During his last appointment in March 2013, he was free of symptoms and presented with “fairly good” cardiac functions. He was also not warned against driving.

However, medical reports stated that he had experienced darkened vision over the past few years before the accident although the episodes were mild. 

He did not get medical help or tell his employer about it.

An independent medical expert and cardiologist said that doctors could have caught the worsening of his condition if he attended regular follow-up appointments.

However, another surgery may not have stopped all arrhythmic events, the expert said.

State Coroner Kamala noted that despite Mr Xu’s past medical history, he had not turned up for appointments for five years and would have benefitted from regular monitoring.

She added that following the accident, the traffic police have also convened a task force to review the process of certifying people as fit to drive.

“I extend my deepest condolences to (the three victims’ families) for their very sad loss,” State Coroner Kamala added.

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court crime coroner's inquiry death accident Yio Chu Kang

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