Bus driver gets clean chit

SINGAPORE - The bus driver at the heart of a fatal accident that sparked a riot in Little India on Dec 8 has been cleared of blame.

In a statement released yesterday explaining the role of driver Lee Kim Huat, also known as Lim Hai Tiong, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said that he did not commit any offence, and that no further action will be taken against him.

The AGC's decision came after studying evidence, including an independent expert's report and witness statements.

It also viewed video footage from four cameras mounted on the driver's bus, which captured views of the bus' external surroundings and its interior.

Mr Lee was arrested the day after the riot and later released on bail pending investigations. He is now a free man.

The AGC found that Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu, 33, who died in the accident, had a blood alcohol level of 217mg per 100ml of blood.

This is nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

While running unsteadily after the bus, he placed his right palm against the left side of the moving bus. This action, coupled with his intoxicated state, "caused him to lose his balance and fall into the path" of the bus.

"The driver was watching out for oncoming traffic from his right, and could not be expected to foresee that the deceased had run after the moving bus", nor that he would fall in its path, said the AGC yesterday.

Mr Lee was travelling at a speed of about 5.6kmh to 5.9kmh at the time, as he was filtering out of Tekka Lane into Race Course Road.

"His attention had been engaged in avoiding the human traffic in the vicinity of his bus, as well as negotiating between the stationary and moving vehicles along Tekka Lane," said the AGC.

The accident sparked a riot involving about 400 Indian and Bangladeshi nationals.

Chinnappa Vijayaragunatha Poopathi, 32, who had refused to leave the scene, was the first of 25 accused to be sentenced. He was given a 15-week jail term on Monday.


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