SIA pilot in NZ car crash told to pay victims $20k

SIA pilot in NZ car crash told to pay victims $20k

The Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilot responsible for a car crash in New Zealand which left two of his colleagues seriously injured has been ordered to pay them NZ$10,000 (S$10,000) each.

Yesterday, the Christchurch District Court also banned SIA first officer Benjamin Wu Yonghao, 32, from driving in the country for 18 months.

It is believed that Wu will be returning to Singapore today. He pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless driving causing injury last week.

Wu was driving a rental Toyota car with four other colleagues last Wednesday, when he ran a stop sign at a cross-junction and hit a four-wheel-drive towing a horse trailer. He managed to slow down to a speed of about 40kmh to 50kmh when he saw the stop sign at the last moment, but could not stop in time.

The four-wheel-drive, which was travelling at 80kmh and had the right of way, braked heavily but could not prevent a collision.

His two colleagues, chief steward Chew Weng Wai and stewardess Vanessa Coehlo, are still hospitalised - Mr Chew for brain injuries and internal bleeding, and Ms Coehlo for fractured bones and injuries to her spleen and bladder.

Mr Chew has six to 12 months of rehabilitation ahead of him, the court heard.

A victim impact statement from his family said that he would require further surgery.

Both Mr Chew and Ms Coelho were seated in the backseat and not wearing seat belts.

Judge Stephen O'Driscoll noted that it was "perhaps ironic" that the other two stewardesses wearing seat belts had not been hurt, adding that Wu should have ensured that his passengers buckled up.

But Wu's defence lawyer Kerry Cook told the court there was no legal responsibility for his client to do so.

"It is the responsibility of the passengers alone to make sure they wear seat belts," Mr Cook told The Straits Times.

He added that Wu is "significantly upset and distraught" by the accident, and has apologised in person to the families of both victims, who do not bear any grudges against him.

When contacted, an SIA spokesman declined to comment on whether it was taking additional disciplinary action against Wu.

In a statement, Wu said he was sorry and took responsibility for the accident.

"I am thankful that everyone involved in this accident is showing signs of improvement and recovery," he said. "I just wish we can move on from here so my friends and colleagues can focus on becoming healthy and well again."'


This article was first published on Oct 11, 2014.
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