Tanjong Pagar accident: Coroner rules 5 deaths in burning car a traffic misadventure

Verdict out.

Belmont Lay | August 25, 2022, 01:51 AM

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A coroner’s inquiry in Singapore on Aug. 24 concluded that the deaths of five men, after a car they were in crashed and caught fire in Tanjong Pagar, were due to a traffic-related misadventure, CNA and The Straits Times reported.

The five men who passed away were the driver, Jonathan Long Junwei, 29, and four of his passengers, Teo Qi Xiang, 26; Elvin Tan Yong Hao, 28; Eugene Yap Zheng Min, 29; and Gary Wong Hong Chieh, 29.

State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said a "moment of recklessness" cost Long his life and also led to the deaths of his four passengers.

He added that the case should serve as a reminder to people to never drive under the influence of alcohol, and even less so when excessively fast speeds and bravado are involved, CNA reported.

The deaths in the collision occurred at about 5.40am on Feb. 13, 2021.

Judge Nakhoda added that the Traffic Police had warned of the dangers of drink-driving, speeding and a combination of both.

He also emphasised the importance of wearing seatbelts, after one of the passengers, Teo, sustained cervical spine injury, as a possible result of not using the seat belt while in the back seat.

What happened

The coroner's inquiry resulted in key findings, such as determining that Long, the driver, was speeding and drink-driving, among the information gathered.

Prior to the crash, all of the men, who were colleagues or ex-colleagues, were at Hong Jjajang restaurant on Tanjong Pagar Road for Chinese New Year celebrations.

High speed racing

The BMW M4 Coupe they were in was travelling at average speeds of between 148 kmh to 182 kmh when Long was driving.

Tanjong Pagar Road has a speed limit of 50 kmh.

Consumed alcohol

Long's blood alcohol level was 86mg per 100ml at the time.

The legal limit is 80mg.

Fourth round around circuit

Three drivers had made one round each around a circuit on Tanjong Pagar Road.

A competition of sorts

Long was the fourth driver and he was described as "very persuasive" on competing to see who could drive faster, and the judge noted that there was an "element of bravado".

Those who were not driving appeared to have voluntarily entered the car.

When Long lost control of the car, it drifted, swerved and rotated almost 180 degrees, before mounting the kerb.

Petrol and heat caused intense fire

The car's rear smashed into a pillar at a shophouse at 37 Tanjong Pagar Road and a fire erupted from the car's undercarriage.

The collision severely damaged the car's exhaust system and also ruptured its fuel tank, causing petrol to leak and vaporise and accumulate in the narrow space under the car.

The petrol then likely ignited after coming into contact with the hot surface of the exhaust system.

Combustible plastics in the vehicle's undercarriage likely served as more fuel for the fire.

Use of seatbelts unclear

All five men died of severe burns.

Teo, who did not have access to a seatbelt as he was seated in the centre rear seat, died of a cervical spine injury.

Wong died of pelvic injuries.

It could not be determined if the other men were wearing seatbelts at that time.

Firefighters responding to calls for assistance arrived at the scene at 5.46am, but were unable to approach the car due to the intensity of the heat.

They managed to extinguish the blaze at 6.08am, and the bodies were subsequently extricated from the vehicle.

Bodies charred beyond recognition

Three of the bodies were identified through fingerprints a day after the accident.

Two bodies were identified by DNA profiling three days after the accident.

The coroner in a fact-finding coroner's inquiry -- a fact-finding exercise -- is prohibited from framing a finding to determine any question of criminal liability.

Top photos via Song Seng Wun