'What's there to forgive, she's no longer here'

'What's there to forgive, she's no longer here'

Two years on, the family members of two teenage girls who died in an accident on Tampines Road are still coming to terms with their deaths.

On March 13, 2014, Ms Michelle Phoe, 18, and Ms Phoebe Lo, 19, were driven home by Republic Polytechnic classmate Tang Zi Liang after a night of drinking.

But Tang lost control of his parents' Toyota sedan, which crashed into a tree and spun violently.

The impact caused Ms Phoe and Ms Lo, who were rear passengers, to be flung out of the car.

They died on the spot.

Yesterday, Tang, now 22, was jailed for 30 months, banned from driving for 15 years and fined $800 for dangerous driving, drink driving and failing to ensure his passenger wore her seat belt.

Despite the verdict, the families of the deceased still find it hard to get over the deaths.

Asked if she has forgiven Tang, Ms Phoe's mother, Madam Sim Ah Moi, told The New Paper in Mandarin last night: "What's there to forgive, she's no longer here. Can he return her to me?"

SORROW

The seamstress in her late 50s avoids talking about her only child, as her memories bring back grief.

She said: "I don't want to talk about her past. She's no longer here.

"My mind becomes muddled when I talk about her. The more I talk about her, the worse it becomes. And I don't feel very well."

"No matter how, she's my only daughter. I gave birth to her. If I continue to talk about her, I will be very sad and I will..." she said, her voice trailing off.

Ms Phoe would have turned 21 this month. Madam Sim said she is not planning anything.

She said: "Whatever we want to do, we should do it when she's still around, not when she's no longer around.

"The more we plan anything (to remember her), the more unhappy we become."

But she still keeps the gifts from her daughter.

She said Tang's parents visited them after the accident two years ago but they have not kept in touch.

She said: "I was too distraught then to speak to them. My family spoke to them instead."

Ms Lo's family also avoids the topic.

Her grandmother raised her from when she was young, after her parents' divorce.

The woman in her 70s, identified only as Madam Chan, said in Mandarin: "I have thrown away her belongings. Don't ask anymore. Don't make me sad."

Her father, Mr Henry Lo, 50, has a nine-year-old daughter with his second wife.

He said of Tang's sentence: "I can't do anything because I am not the judge. I just leave it to the judge."

Her stepmother, Madam Jacqueline Ho, 43, a part-time stall assistant, described Ms Lo as "a very obedient child who seldom went clubbing".

They keep telling him to wake up, slow down

He was drunk, and he was speeding.

He was also falling asleep at the wheel and had to be woken up by his passengers a few times.

Tang Zi Liang, who was driving his three friends home after a night of drinking, ignored their calls to slow down and continued to drive at speeds of 120 to 140 kmh along Tampines Road.

Just as he assured his friends all was well, tragedy struck.

Tang lost control of his parents' Toyota sedan while navigating a slight right bend.

The car veered across the road and slid sideways onto a grass patch, before crashing into a tree and spinning violently in a clockwise direction.

His rear passengers, Ms Michelle Phoe, 18, and Ms Phoebe Lo, 19, were flung out of the car and onto the grass patch.

They died from multiple injuries.

Tang, who was then a Republic Polytechnic student, was trapped in his seat and had to be rescued by Singapore Civil Defence Force officers with hydraulic tools. He suffered chest and neck injuries.

Another friend, Ms Isabella Tay, then 18, who was seated in the front passenger seat, escaped serious injuries.

Yesterday, Tang, now 22, was jailed for 30 months, banned from driving for 15 years and fined $800 for dangerous driving, drink driving and failing to ensure his passenger wore her seat belt.

The accident happened in the early hours of March 13, 2014.

Court papers revealed that Tang had taken up a part-time job as a promoter for a club, Dream, at Clarke Quay, that year.

On March 12 that year, he had invited classmates Ms Lo and Ms Phoe to the club.

He picked up Ms Phoe and another friend known only as Sky from their homes in his parents' car that evening.

AT THE CLUB

At 10.30pm, they arrived at Dream, where Tang had two shots of vodka and a cup of Hennessy cognac with cola as he went about entertaining his guests and other club patrons.

The three friends also met up with Ms Lo and Ms Tay at the club, and they left for another club in Orchard Plaza at 2am the next morning.

There, Tang shared a tower of beer, equivalent to 3½ jugs, with his friends.

They decided to head home at 3.45am, and Tang offered to drive them back.

After Tang dropped Sky off at her home in the Ubi area, Ms Tay moved to the front passenger seat and wore her seat belt.

Court papers said Tang did not ensure that Ms Lo and Ms Phoe, who sat behind, wore their seat belts.

Tang then drove onto Tampines Road at high speed, prompting his worried passengers to urge him to slow down. Tang replied that it was fine.

He also fell asleep repeatedly while driving and had to be woken up by his friends.

He eventually lost control of the car and crashed. The car skidded to a stop next to Ms Lo and Ms Phoe, who had been flung out and had landed next to a fire hydrant.

The teenagers suffered multiple injuries and were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics at about 6.40am, court papers said.

Rescue officers freed Tang from his seat.

He was taken to Changi General Hospital with Ms Tay, who suffered bruises and superficial abrasions and was discharged with three days' medical leave.

Tang was treated for chest and neck injuries, placed in a neck brace cervical collar and warded for four days.

The authorities also took two blood samples from him on the day of the accident and found his blood alcohol level to be at least 139 mg per 100ml.

The legal limit for drink driving is 80mg per 100ml.

Yesterday, Tang pleaded guilty to one count each of dangerous driving causing the deaths of Ms Lo and Ms Phoe, dangerous driving causing hurt to Ms Tay, drink driving and failing to ensure his passenger wore her seat belt.

One other charge was taken into consideration for sentencing.

Lawyer: He dropped out of poly, still feels guilty

It has been almost two years since the accident, but driver Tang Zi Liang is still haunted by guilt, said his lawyer Anil Singh in mitigation yesterday.

Tang, now 22, had phoned the families of his two classmates - Ms Michelle Phoe and Ms Phoebe Lo, both who died in the horrific car crash on March 13, 2014 - to apologise.

He also asked his parents to attend his friends' wakes on his behalf as he was then hospitalised.

"While Michelle's parents acknowledged the attendance of our client's parents, Phoebe's parents ignored their presence," said Mr Singh, who added that Tang also sent them letters of apology.

Mr Singh also said that his client dropped out of the information technology course at Republic Polytechnic as he was unable to live with the guilt.

He later enrolled at Kaplan to pursue an eight-month diploma in event management but failed his exams twice as he was unable to concentrate on his studies.

Tang also had many sleepless nights and recurring nightmares of the incident and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr Singh said.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wee Hao said in his submissions a stiff sentence was clearly warranted in the light of aggravating factors.

He said Tang drank and drove, ignored repeated warnings of his concerned passengers and persisted in driving in that way until the accident.

chaihyn@sph.com.sg

rloh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 2, 2016.
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