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Jail, driving ban for man who seriously injured 2 after accidentally reversing van into crowded coffee shop

SINGAPORE — When Tan Hwee Koon stopped his van outside a crowded Tuas eatery last year, he did not switch off the engine and accidentally stepped on the accelerator while his reverse gear was engaged.

Tan Hwee Koon (left) outside the State Courts on March 10, 2022.

Tan Hwee Koon (left) outside the State Courts on March 10, 2022.

SINGAPORE — When Tan Hwee Koon stopped his van outside a crowded Tuas eatery last year, he did not switch off the engine and accidentally stepped on the accelerator while his reverse gear was engaged.

The vehicle then ploughed into the coffee shop, leaving two people with fractures and another with a hip bruise.

The 64-year-old Singaporean was jailed for two weeks on Thursday (March 10) and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for two years upon his release.

He pleaded guilty to one count of causing grievous hurt by a negligent act. Another charge of causing hurt by a negligent act was taken into consideration for sentencing.

The court heard that Tan, who had worked as a driver for two decades, was behind the wheel of his Citroen Berlingo van while on a delivery job.

He stopped the vehicle in a parking lot outside Chong Hock Eating House along Gul Street at about 12.40pm on March 12 last year. He left it in reverse gear but it remained stationary because he was pressing on the brake pedal.

However, he then decided to retrieve a parcel that he had placed to his left on the front passenger seat.

While doing so, his foot shifted from the brake pedal to the accelerator pedal. The van then reversed because he had made no effort to turn off the engine as well, the court heard.

He stepped on the accelerator with such force that it went over a 13cm-high parking block and 13cm-high curb before crashing into the coffee shop.

Stall assistant Chu Lai Kiew, 69, was trapped in her stall as a result of the accident.

She was later freed by two passers-by and taken to a hospital, where she was found to have suffered ankle and calf fractures. She was warded for five days and discharged with 31 days of medical leave.

Another victim, Mr Low Mun Wai, was given 83 days of medical leave after suffering an open fracture among other injuries.

The 40-year-old had been sitting two rows from the parking lot where Tan was parked, about two tables away from Madam Chu’s stall.

After the accident, Tan remained at the scene until the police arrived, and cooperated with the officers.

The scene at Chuang Hock Eating House, located at 18 Gul Street 3 in Tuas, after Tan Hwee Koon reversed a van into the coffee shop.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Bryont Chin sought one to two weeks’ jail and a two-year disqualification period. He argued that Tan should have seen that the coffee shop was crowded during the midday lunch period.

In mitigation, Tan, who did not have a lawyer, told District Judge Paul Chan that he was sorry and did not intend to cause the accident.

The judge noted his lack of intention but said that a short imprisonment term was necessary because he had caused great harm.

He had not shifted his van to neutral gear and committed a “very dangerous manoeuvre” in reaching for an object while stepping on the brake, which was the only thing preventing the vehicle from moving, the judge added.

For committing a negligent act causing grievous hurt, Tan could have been jailed for up to two years or fined up to S$5,000, or punished with both.

Related topics

crime court van Tuas coffee shop negligent act driving ban

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