Minibus crash caused by 'distracting flash', driver tells court

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 4:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 5:18am

A minibus driver was distracted by a flash of light he thought was from a speed camera and ended up crashing into a broken-down taxi on the road, the District Court heard yesterday.

Lau Tak-kwong later found out that the flashing light came from the taxi. One of his passengers died and 11 others were injured in the crash.

Lau, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

"Lau stepped on the brake just one metre before [he reached the taxi]," Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man said, adding that the man was driving in an extremely dangerous manner.

The accident happened on Fanling Highway in the early hours of July 3 last year, prosecutor Thomas Iu said. A taxi had broken down, and two policemen were at the scene directing cars away from the vehicle. As they were doing so, they saw Lau's minibus coming towards them without slowing down. It only came to a halt after it crashed into the taxi. The policemen managed to make it out of harm's way in time.

After the crash, minibus passenger Tam Chi-wan was found kneeling near the door, moaning in pain, the court heard.

Tam, 58, lost consciousness soon after and was taken to hospital where doctors discovered his neck was broken. He died four days later.

Two other passengers suffered head injuries and nine sustained minor injuries.

Lau told police he saw the taxi when he was between 200 and 300 metres away from it. He wanted to turn right to avoid the cab but was distracted by a sudden flash of light. The next thing he knew, he had crashed into the taxi, he said.

An engineer who checked the minibus found that Lau was driving at 80km/h at the time of the accident. The taxi was seriously damaged in the crash, with the cost of repairs estimated at about HK$250,000.

Barrister Simon Yip, representing Lau, said his client was alert while driving, and when he saw the flash of light on the road, he took a look out of curiosity.

The judge raised the question of whether Lau had been speeding, hence his concern about the flash of light he thought was from a speed camera.

But Yip insisted that his client was driving within the speed limit of 80km/h at the time of the accident. Lau will be sentenced on December 12.