SIA pilot admits to causing NZ car crash

SIA pilot admits to causing NZ car crash
SIA pilot Benjamin Wu Yonghao has been charged in Christchurch for reckless driving causing injury.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilot Benjamin Wu Yonghao yesterday admitted to causing a high-speed car crash in New Zealand that left two of his colleagues seriously injured.

The 32-year-old appeared in front of a Christchurch District Court judge yesterday and pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless driving causing injury.

He is expected to be sentenced on Monday. He faces a possible fine of up to NZ$20,000 (S$20,100) and a maximum five years in jail.

Wu, a first officer with the airline, was behind the wheel of a Toyota car that collided with a four-wheel drive towing a horse trailer at a cross-junction near the town of Rolleston, on the outskirts of Christchurch, on Wednesday.

Four other SIA crew members were in the car.

Chief steward Chew Weng Wai and stewardess Vanessa Coehlo are still in Christchurch Hospital.

Mr Chew suffered brain injuries and is in critical condition in the intensive care unit, while Ms Coehlo is in a stable condition following surgery, said a hospital spokesman.

The two other SIA stewardesses were unhurt and have since returned home.

New Zealand police have asked for a delay in sentencing to see how Mr Chew's condition develops, said the police prosecutor, Sergeant Glenn Pascoe.

Wu's defence lawyer Kerry Cook told the court that SIA has flown the victims' families to New Zealand but not his client's, and that Wu has been left "isolated and under stress".

He added that Wu, who has been let out on bail but had his passport impounded, also had NZ$15,000 brought into the country for the court to disburse to the victims as compensation.

When asked if he had been given assistance or suspended from the airline, an SIA spokesman declined to comment.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Singapore High Commission in New Zealand has not been approached for assistance.

Friends of Wu, who is single and lives with his parents and younger brother here, said he has assured them through text messages that he was coping with his problems.

dansonc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 4, 2014.
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