Hari Raya Puasa is approaching, but for one family, the festivities will bring back sad memories.
It is a stark reminder of how their son was cruelly taken away in the prime of his life in a horrific road accident on Aug 9 two years ago, on the second day of Hari Raya.
All because a man was speeding dangerously on the Central Expressway while high on drugs.
His multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) slammed into Mr Amron Ayoub, 23, his South Korean girlfriend, Miss Jamie Song Jisoo, 24, and her parents, Madam Kim Mee-Kyung, 53, and Mr Song Jungwoo, 55, as they stood behind their stationary MPV, which had a flat tyre.
All four were killed in the crash.
The sole survivor was Miss Song's brother, Mr Song Seounghwan, 32, who was standing at the side of their vehicle.
Toh Cheng Yang, 36, was yesterday given the maximum sentence of five years in jail and a driving ban of 20 years. He had earlier pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. (See report on page 4.)
Mr Amron's father, Mr Ayoub Ahmat, 53, said yesterday: "To others, two years have passed. But to me, it feels like the accident happened just yesterday."
Mr Ayoub, who works in aviation and is based in Kuala Lumpur, told The New Paper at his Hougang home - two adjoining five-room flats - that the family has no issues with Toh's sentence.
"The court has made all the considerations and I think this must be the fairest decision," he said. "This is the maximum sentence he is given. One has to be responsible for what one has done."
He said the family had decided to forgive Toh right from the start.
"Nothing forced us to forgive. We knew it was an accident... if we don't forgive, the accident will keep hounding us in our memories. But when we forgive from the heart, we accept that it was totally an accident," he said.
LET HIM MOVE ON
Mr Ayoub said he knew Toh would live with his guilt for the rest of his life and that people should give him room to move on once he has served his sentence.
He said the last time he and his wife saw Mr Amron was when they woke him up to take his girlfriend and her family, who were visiting from South Korea, to Changi Airport.
Two hours later, the Ayoubs rushed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital after being told that Mr Amron, a trainee pilot, was critically injured and that three of his passengers had died.
An hour after the accident, their only son was dead. The couple, who have three daughters, were devastated.
"For us, we took it as part and parcel of life... as Muslims, we saw it as a test from God," Mr Ayoub said.
As the only man left in the family, Mr Ayoub made it a point not to shed tears in front of anyone, saying: "I knew that if I start crying, the rest would do the same. But if I stay strong, they would be okay. I had to be strong."
He added that his niece pointed out he had never shed a tear since day one.
"I told her she can't think I don't have a heart. He's my only son."
The void Mr Amron left in the family is evident from the wistful smile on Mr Ayoub's face as he spoke about him.
"He was always the one creating the atmosphere at home, cracking jokes. At family gatherings, his voice was always the first I heard. Now, all I hear are moments of silence," he said.
Mr Amron was special not only to the family but also to his friends, some going back as far as his primary school days. At his funeral, so many people turned up to pay their last respects that they filled the Ayoubs' home.
"It was so crowded that it took two hours before the crowd cleared. My neighbours thought it was a National Day gathering," Mr Ayoub said.
He revealed that they became closer after Mr Amron started taking up a pilot licence in Malacca. Mr Ayoub, who travels to KL for work, would give him a lift.
BONDED OVER CAR RIDE
"We really bonded. The car ride was three hours and he couldn't go anywhere," he said, with a laugh.
For three months after his son's death, Mr Ayoub opted to fly to KL instead of driving.
"I like to drive, but it is very painful to pass by his workplace. I'd start to remember," he said.
One way he remembers his son is by wearing his shirts.
"It is like having a part of him wherever I go. But his pants don't fit me as they are a little bigger," Mr Ayoub said.
Mr Amron's aunt, 50, who declined to be named, said the mood at home remains sombre.
The housewife, who sews new clothes for the family for Hari Raya Puasa, said: "Usually, Amron would be the one asking me to sew new clothes. I don't know how to bring up the topic this year. It reminds the family of him."
She is still struggling to come to terms with his death. "People say time heals all wounds. But for me, the longer the accident has been, the more I miss him," she said, tears welling in her eyes.
Rare case of maximum sentence
Toh's maximum sentence - a five-year jail term and a 20-year driving ban for causing death by dangerous driving - is rare, based on past media reports on similar offences. Here are some previous cases.
A lorry driver claimed the sun was in his eyes when he hit and killed two pedestrians at a crossing where the traffic lights were in their favour in May last year.
Ng Boon Wee, 55, was jailed for nine months and was banned from the road for six years in March after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.
A drunk motorist lost control of his car while negotiating a bend in June 2013.
The car mounted a kerb, hit a road sign, a stationary taxi and two men nearby. The driver's breath alcohol was almost twice the legal limit.
Nasri Anwar, 32, was sentenced to 33 months in jail and was banned from driving for 12 years in February 2014 for causing the deaths of a taxi driver and a car washer and injuring three others.
He drove his close friend and two others home after a drinking session despite not having a licence.
It ended in a crash at Corporation Road. His friend was killed and the other two passengers were seriously injured in the July 2010 accident.
In May 2012, the 31-year-old was sentenced to 28 months in jail and was banned from driving for 10 years after he pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, causing grievous hurt, drink driving and driving without a valid licence.
This article was first published on June 20, 2015.
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