The driver: It wasn't my fault. I have moved on

The driver: It wasn't my fault. I have moved on

WHO: Mr Lee Kim Huat, 55, who also has the alias Lim Hai Tiong.

HIS INVOLVEMENT: He was the driver of the private bus involved in the fatal accident that sparked the riot.

Mr Lee was arrested and released on bail. In February, he resumed driving after he was cleared of criminal charges by the Attorney-General's Chambers.

HIS STORY: When Insight visited Mr Lee on Wednesday at his four-room Housing Board flat in Hougang, he is having his dinner in front of the TV, with his dog beside him.

He has just ended a long day at work, ferrying students and workers. He is still with the same employer, Mr Ben Tan of long-established BT & Tan Transport.

Of that fateful Dec 8, Mr Lee declares in Mandarin: "It wasn't my fault. I have moved on."

But it did take its toll. Shortly after, he fell into a two-month depression, spent most of his time at home and avoided the media.

Although no blame was laid on him at the Committee of Inquiry hearing, the incident scarred his life, says Mr Lee.

He developed a fear of going to Little India. "I have never been back," he says. "I avoid going there as I don't want to be reminded of the incident. I am also afraid people there would recognise me and start attacking me."

Another change: He has "downsized" from driving a 40- to a 19-seater coach.

"I no longer have a regular, fixed route (to and from Serangoon Road)," says Mr Lee. "I still fetch foreign workers, but not from Little India. But most times I fetch students from international schools."

He adds: "I don't think of the accident anymore. It caused me a lot of stress back then."

Says his 53-year-old wife: "His health took a nosedive. I was so worried when his blood pressure kept rising."

Mr Tan, 47, tells Insight that Mr Lee has taken "quite a number of medical leave (days) this year". He adds that Mr Lee has to miss work again for a few weeks "as he needs to go for cataract surgery".

The sole breadwinner in the family, Mr Lee, who has an 18-year-old daughter, earns under $1,800 a month.

He has been driving for 30 years and says the accident in Little India was the only time that he has knocked down someone.

Indeed, Mr Tan says Mr Lee has a clean driving record, except for the occasional summons for parking on double yellow lines or speeding while overtaking.

As Mr Lee talks to Insight, he tucks into a simple dish of vermicelli with soup while watching a Chinese variety show. "My life is very simple. Driving is the only job that I have learnt to do," he says.

joycel@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 6, 2014.
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