This is what actually happened on that fateful morning, as he related to me over the phone a short while ago.
At around 5am this morning, Ah Lam picked up this 30-something China national at Still Road to the Budget Terminal at Singapore Changi Airport. He looked like an ordinary guy on his way home to China after slotting his life here. He talked happily about his work experience here and was looking forward to his impending holiday back home.
He sat beside Ah Lam and did not smelt of liquor. He was a perfect passenger until they were about a kilometre to the airport. He suddenly became "crazy" and accused Ah Lam of "stealing" his things. Though Ah Lam explained to him politely that was impossible as they were always side by side the whole trip, he turned violent and punched Ah Lam a few times at his neck and left ear. Ah Lam was terrified and activated his "emergency button" inside the taxi before stopping and getting out of his taxi just outside the SATS In-flight Catering Center 1. This China guy got out of the taxi too and confronted Ah Lam to return the "stolen" stuffs. Not happy with Ah Lam's denial, he kicked him at his groin and Ah Lam fell to the ground. He wanted to continue his attacks but was stopped immediately by a few airport workers who were at the scenes. Luckily for Ah Lam, those workers were there waiting for transport to bring them home after their night shift. Without their intervention, Ah Lam could have been grievously hurt.
Like a person possessed by "spirit", the China national shockingly hijacked the taxi and speed away towards the airport terminal. Ah Lam was left on the ground, stunned and speechless. He deeply regretted that he forgot to remove the taxi ignition key when he abandoned his taxi. He was probably dazed from the assault to his head and did not have the presence of mind to do that sensible thing. I must remember never to leave my cab without my ignition key. It could save a life.!
It was reported in all the major news media that shortly after driving off the taxi towards the direction of the airport terminal, the Chinese national hit a cleaner on duty along the driveway and killed him instantly. He also crashed the taxi into the glass slide door next to the fast food restaurant "McDonald" and damaged a traffic light. The taxi is a big, 2,300cc Hyandai Sonota, with automatic transmission and it's not easy to handle, especially for someone who had never driven an automatic transmission car.
Police have arrested the Chinese national, who was detained by passerby as he tried to run away after the accident. He will probably be charged with manslaughter and spent many years behind bar. The dead man is Mr. Chandra Mogan, a Malaysian, living in Johor with a wife and 4 small children aged between 3 months and 10 years old. Sigh..sigh...My deepest condolences to this poor, poor family. I pray the family would get some compensation from the company he worked for.
As for my buddy, Ah Lam. He suffered some minor injuries and was given out-patient treatment at Changi Hospital. At the moment, he has nothing to worry but must be prepared for many visits to the various police stations and his company to assist in their investigation into the incident. He must also attend court hearings and trials at later dates. He had to do all these at his own expenses, without reimbursements, whatsoever. He'll gets nothing in return for all his "troubles", except a pleasant thought that he's still alive today. This is the reality of a taxi driver's job.
As cabby, we either take the frequent complaints, harassments, insults, abuses and perils of the job in our stride, or quit to become security guards or cleaners. At our advance age, it's extremely difficult to find another suitable job in Singapore, especially when our floodgate is wide open for cheap foreign workers to compete with us in all sectors of our economy, except vocational taxi driving. But for how long will the protection of this vocation continue, nobody knows. Sooner or later, indigenous Singapore taxi drivers will end up like bus drivers, their job taken over by foreigners. So, in the meantime, we should be grateful that we still have a job, albeit "precarious and stressful".
|The badly damaged taxi at the airport terminal.
1. This afternoon, Channel News Asia reported that the China national has been charged with voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery and will probably be sentenced to between 5 to 20 years and with at least 12 strokes of the cane. The charges were read out to the suspect this morning at his hospital bed. He is lucky to escape a manslaughter charge with entail a life imprisonment.
2. For visitors who want to help the victim's family, please follow this Link (Here)
3. Latest news report (March 23, 2012) of charges against the China national (Here )
4. Latest news report (April 15, 2013) PRC sentenced to 25 months jail (LinK)