Driver who killed ex-hotelier in 2013 accident admits he failed to keep a proper lookout

He had noticed the elderly pedestrian standing at the side of the road.

But as the driver of the Volkswagen Passat prepared to turn into Holland Grove Road, he took his eyes off the man, who had made his way across.

The car driven by Michael Teo Wee Hian then slammed into the pedestrian - pioneering hotelier Sonnie Lien Tiong Wah, 78 - killing him.

Yesterday, Teo, 65, a regional manager of a company, appeared in court and admitted to failing to keep a proper lookout while driving and, as a result, causing Mr Lien's death on Nov 11, 2013.

At about 9.30pm that day, Teo was driving his car on the rightmost of three lanes along Ulu Pandan Road in the direction of Holland Road, the court heard.

At that point, Teo spotted Mr Lien standing on the leftmost lane, just a short distance from the kerb.

Teo released the accelerator, before looking away from Mr Lien and concentrating on his own lane.


As he then prepared to make a right turn into Holland Grove Road, he accelerated his vehicle once again.

But he did not notice that Mr Lien had crossed the road by then. There were also no other cars on the road at that time.

When Teo realised Mr Lien was on the rightmost lane, it was too late and the front left section of his car slammed into the elderly man.

Upon impact, Mr Lien was hurled onto the front windscreen before he landed back onto the road.

Court papers said the weather was fine, visibility was clear and the road was dry at that time.

Teo was also driving at 50kmh, below the speed limit of 60kmh.

Mr Lien was taken to the National University Hospital (NUH), where he died from his multiple injuries about an hour later.

Mr Lien, who had studied at the Swiss Hotel Management School in Lucerne, Switzerland, and Cornell University's prestigious School of Hotel Administration in the United States, was general manager of the Mandarin Singapore hotel for 15 years.

After he retired in 2003, he shuttled between Singapore, the United States, and Australia to visit his children and grandchildren.

He left behind three children and seven grandchildren.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Houston Johannus said that Teo had little reason not to have looked out for the pedestrian if he had paid due care and attention while driving.

The prosecution called for a $1,000 fine and a six-month driving ban for Teo, who will be back in court on March 26 for sentencing.

The punishment for failing to keep a proper lookout and causing death is six months' jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.

This article was first published on February 25, 2015.
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