SINGAPORE: Two foreign workers who died after the lorry they were in collided with a stationary truck along the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) were seated in the back of the lorry, closest to the cabin.
State Coroner Adam Nakhoda on Wednesday (Oct 20) found that Mr Hossain Toffazal, a 33-year-old Bangladeshi national, and Mr Sugunan Sudheeshmon, a 28-year-old Indian national, had died of multiple injuries consistent with a road traffic accident.
Mr Hossain and Mr Sugunan were in the back of a lorry along with 14 other workers from Bright Asia Construction on the day of the accident on Apr 20 this year, the court heard.
On the morning of the accident, the truck driver drove his vehicle, registered to Evergreen Waste Management, along Lane 3 or 4 of the PIE towards Changi when he heard the sound of a tyre bursting.
He stopped the truck on the road shoulder before the Jalan Bahar exit, but as the road shoulder was narrow, the truck partially protruded into Lane 5 of the 5-lane carriageway.
The driver turned on the truck’s hazard lights to warn other approaching motorists and exited the vehicle to check the tyres. One of the tyres was punctured, he found.
THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
Meanwhile, the deceased and their colleagues were picked up by their lorry driver at their dormitory in Tuas South.
Mr Hossain and Mr Sugunan sat in the back of the lorry, on the left side closest to the cabin. Another 14 workers also sat in the back.
The driver sat alone in the cabin, as he was headed to Jurong West to pick up his supervisor who would sit in front with him, the court heard.
There was no evidence that any of the workers were standing during the journey, nor that the number of workers in the back exceeded the number of workers that can be carried in the rear of the lorry, the coroner said.
The lorry driver drove in Lane 4 of the PIE at first, at an estimated 60kmh. As the lorry approached Jalan Bahar exit, the PIE widened into a five-lane road.
At about 6am, as the driver intended to take the Jalan Bahar exit, he switched lanes from Lane 4 to Lane 5, but only noticed the truck that was stationary on the road shoulder when he was about two lorry lengths away.
He swerved to the right and applied his brakes but was unable to prevent a collision. The left front of the lorry collided into the right rear of the truck, 17 seconds after the truck had stopped and before the truck driver could put up a breakdown sign.
The impact crumpled the front portion of the lorry and dented the rear cabin panel.
A minibus driver who came upon the scene of the accident stopped his vehicle and called the police.
CONDITION OF THE LORRY PASSENGERS
Paramedics at the scene found Mr Hossain and Mr Sugunan trapped in the rear of the lorry. They needed about 30 minutes to extricate Mr Hossain, who was in cardiac arrest.
He died later that morning despite medical intervention.
Mr Sugunan was also extricated from the back of the lorry, while the other 14 workers were taken to hospitals with various injuries but survived.
Mr Sugunan became pulseless at 7.46am, with his pulse returning after cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but his prognosis was grim, said Judge Nakhoda.
His condition deteriorated in hospital despite therapy and he was pronounced dead two days after the accident.
Mr Hossain had been working for Bright Asia Construction for 10 years and Mr Sugunan for two. Their lorry driver had worked for the same company for five years and was both the designated driver and site supervisor.
Neither of the deceased persons’ next-of-kin were able to attend the coroner inquiry, but a representative from Bright Asia Construction stated that the company has provided aid as they could to both families.
The coroner said there was no evidence of foul play and conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased.
After the accident, the lorry driver was arrested for careless driving causing death.
In the months that followed, there were calls to cease the practice of ferrying foreign workers in the backs of lorries.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said in Parliament in May that the ministry is undertaking a review of the measures for using lorries to ferry workers to improve safety.