Last Updated on 2022-08-26 , 2:35 pm
On 13 February 2021, a fatal car crash occurred at Tanjong Pagar Road and took the lives of five people.
The driver of the car, Mr Jonathan Long Junwei, and his four passengers—Mr Eugene Yap Zheng Min, Mr Elvin Tan Yong Hao, Mr Teo Qi Xiang and Mr Gan Wong Hong Chieh—died in the collision at about 5:40am that day.
On Wednesday (24 Aug), State Coroner Adam Nakhoda ruled that the accident was related to a traffic-related misadventure.
Liquid Courage and Devil Dares
Earlier that night, the group of five were gathered at Hong Jjajang restaurant on Tanjong Pagar Road for Chinese New Year celebrations.
Based on the forensic analysis, the BMW M4 Coupe had been travelling at “staggering” speeds averaging 148km/hr to 182km/hr when Mr Long was driving.
It greatly exceeded the speed limit of 50km/hr on Tanjong Pagar Road.
A police investigator also testified that Mr Long’s blood alcohol level was 86 mg per 100ml leading up to the accident, which is above the legal limit of 80mg.
All of this pointed towards a “shocking lack of consideration” for Mr Long’s own safety, as well as the safety of his passengers and other road users, said Judge Nakhoda.
Prior to the fatal collision, the car had been driven three laps around a circuit on Tanjong Pagar Road, with a different driver each time.
The circuit started from Hong Jjajang restaurant at 93 Tanjong Pagar Road towards Keppel, before taking a U-turn at Enggor Street which brought the car back along Tanjong Pagar toward Maxwell, then it would make another U-turn near 37 Tanjong Pagar road and return to the restaurant.
According to the evidence cited by the police investigation, Mr Long was extremely compelling and “insisted” on competing to see who could drive faster.
Judge Nakhoda noted that there seemed to have been an “element of bravado” as Mr Long had intended to show his colleagues or ex-colleagues how fast he could drive the car.
However, there was no indication that Mr Long persuaded or cajoled anyone to get in the car. It appeared that they got into the vehicle on their own volition, and there was clear excitement among them.
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The Collision and Subsequent Fire
When Mr Long’s turn came around, he lost control of the car.
The vehicle drifted, swerved, and rotated almost 180 degrees before it slammed into the curb and rear-ended the pillar of a shophouse at 37 Tanjong Pagar Road.
It was theorised that Mr Long may have been braking heavily moments prior to the crash, as the car tyres were emitting white smoke in the video footage.
Autopsies later determined that all five men died of severe burns in the fire that consequently swallowed the car and shophouse into which it crashed.
Mr Teo and Mr Wong also died of a cervical spine injury and pelvic injuries respectively.
Three of the bodies were identified through fingerprints the day after the accident, while the remaining two were identified through DNA profiling on 16 February 2021.
According to a senior fire investigator from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the fire originated from the car’s undercarriage.
The collision severely ruptured the car’s exhaust system and fuel tank, thus causing the petrol to leak and vaporise.
As the volume of vapourised petrol in the narrow space under the car increased, it probably ignited after coming into contact with the hot surface of the exhaust system. The combustible plastics making up the car’s undercarriage could have also been another source of fuel for the blaze.
The firefighters arrived at the scene at 5:46am after receiving calls for assistance but were unable to approach the car due to the intense heat.
The fire was put out at 6:08am, and the bodies were extracted from the vehicle.
Do Not Drink and Drive
The Tanjong Pagar road accident is a cautionary tale.
The Traffic Police has always warned about the dangers of drink-driving, speeding, or a combination of both, which can lead to horrific consequences.
Judge Nakhoda stated this case should serve as a reminder to people to never drive whilst intoxicated, and even less so while fuelled by bravado and at excessively high speeds.
The “moment of recklessness” had cost Mr Long his life, and resulted in the death of four other passengers.
The judge also stressed on the importance of wearing seatbelts, citing the cervical injuries suffered by Mr Teo.
Since Mr Teo was seated in the centre rear seat, he did not have any seatbelts. It could not be discerned if the other people in the car were wearing seatbelts due to the extent of damage dealt to the car.
After the hearing, Mr Long’s father told media reporters that the coroner’s findings have brought closure to his family, adding that they have to move on from the incident.
He mentioned that his family will continue to support his son’s former girlfriend Ms Raybe Oh, whom he called “my daughter”.
On the night of the accident, Ms Oh had been with the group. She tried to save the car’s passengers, only to suffer severe burns.
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