Bus driver's boss: Call for help got cut off

The insides of the bus in the aftermath of Sunday's riot. The crowd outside flung a number of objects at the bus, including glass bottles, concrete slabs and drain grills.

SINGAPORE- His bus had just got into an accident that left one man dead in Little India on Sunday night.

When the driver, Mr Lee Kim Huat, 55, got down to check, he was assaulted by a mob.

He managed to get back into the bus and call his employer, Mr Ben Tan, 46, to tell him what had happened.

In an interview with Shin Min Daily News yesterday, Mr Tan said the call was cut off before he could reply. Subsequent calls to Mr Lee went unanswered.

Meanwhile, a good Samaritan pushed Mr Lee's colleague, bus coordinator Grace Wong Geck Woon, 38, into the bus and Mr Lee locked the doors.

But this agitated the mob even more and they started shaking the bus to try to topple it.

After the men broke the glass windows by hurling objects at the bus, the mob tried to set fire to its fuel tank.

Mr Lee and Madam Wong, who were still in the bus at the time, were eventually rescued by police officers who formed a human barricade around them.

As the crowd continued hurling objects at them, some officers were injured.

The two of them were bleeding when Mr Tan got to the scene.

By then, the bus was badly damaged with at least two seats on fire and burnt paper strewn around its interior. All its fittings had also been ripped out, he said.

That night, Mr Lee's blood pressure reading was very high and he had to spend the night in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Mr Tan said.

The traumatised driver has not left home since he was discharged on Monday.

"He told me that he still wants to be a bus driver, but is afraid of the Little India route. I suggested he take a two-month break and maybe we'll change his route," Mr Tan told the Chinese evening daily.

Mr Lee, who has worked for Mr Tan for 15 years, had been transporting foreign workers to and from Little India on Sundays for more than 10 years.

"He is a quiet person who wouldn't normally get into a fight with someone," Mr Tan said, adding that he is a conscientious driver.

While the accident is now under police investigation, he hopes Mr Lee will be able to keep his job.

Even if he needed to change jobs, the company will continue paying his basic salary until he finds new employment, Mr Tan said.

Mr Lee has been arrested and is out on bail.


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