Cabby choked by drunk man thought he was going to die

Cabby choked by drunk man thought he was going to die
HELPLESS: (Right) Cabby Chan Chuan Heng showing how Arne Corneliussen pinned him onto the ground and held him in a chokehold.

Deprived of oxygen for 15 seconds as a drunk man held him in a chokehold, cabby Chan Chuan Heng wondered if he was going to die.

Fortunately, two strangers rushed to his aid.

But the attack left him so badly hurt, the 46-year-old ComfortDelGro cabby could not work for five months.

Mr Chan is slowly piecing his life together, and the first step on his road to recovery is forgiving the man who assaulted him.

His attacker, Norwegian national Arne Corneliussen, 50, was jailed for 10 weeks last Wednesday.

On Sept 22 last year, he assaulted Mr Chan at the intersection of Circular Road and North Canal Road at around 1am.

Corneliussen, a Singapore permanent resident, had turned violent after Mr Chan refused to take him in his taxi because he needed to go to the toilet.

Recalling the chokehold, Mr Chan told The New Paper in his four-room flat in Bedok Reservoir: "I couldn't breathe. I thought to myself, 'Will I die? Will I see my wife again?'

"I struggled but he was too heavy and too strong for me to fight back."

Mr Chan said he was about to lose consciousness when two strangers yanked Corneliussen off him.

"I call them my heroes. I was relieved that I could breathe again and sat on a kerb to regain my breath."

One of his rescuers called the police, but Corneliussen fled before the officers arrived.

Mr Chan was taken to the Singapore General Hospital, where he was found to have a fractured foot and a wound on his right arm.

He was given seven days of medical leave and had to have metal pins inserted into his foot

HURT

He could not work for five months.

He had to move around in a wheelchair for three months and use crutches for the next two.

Mr Chan, who is married to a 45-year-old housewife with no children, had to dip into his savings and borrow money from relatives to pay for such necessities as food and household bills.

Mr Chan, who earns about $3,000 a month, resumed driving in late February. He did not have to pay the rent for his taxi during the five months as he had returned it to ComfortDelGro.

The bulk of his medical expenses, which came up to $10,000, was covered by insurance.

On Corneliussen, he said: "I've already forgiven him but I will never forget. I just want to move on with my life."

Mr Chan, who works up to 12 hours every day, said he started his shift at around 8pm on Sept 21.

He headed to Boat Quay at about 1am after one of his cabby friends alerted him that many people were waiting for taxis in the area after the Singapore Grand Prix festivities.

The court heard that Mr Chan had parked his taxi at the intersection of Circular Road and North Canal Road near Boat Quay to take a break when Corneliussen tried to open the taxi's left rear door.

Mr Chan apologised to the burly Norwegian and told him he had to go to the toilet.

When Corneliussen, who had been drinking at Clarke Quay, slapped him on the right cheek, Mr Chan uttered an expletive and exclaimed: "Why did you hit me?"

Corneliussen lunged forward when he heard this and ran after the cabby who had dashed off.

After about 12m, Corneliussen stopped, returned to the taxi and tried to open the rear door again.

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