Driver jailed 8 months for killing man, baby

Anita Lam

Lack of reverse warning device a factor in tragedy: magistrate

A truck driver who admitted killing a father and his 11-month-old daughter last September while reversing his truck in Sheung Wan was sentenced to eight months in prison yesterday.

Fong Chai-man, 26, has also been disqualified from driving for two years and was fined HK$6,000 for driving a truck that had no rear lights and no audible warning devices.

The truck ran over Benson Lin Che-kiang, who was holding his daughter Gladys Lin Yan-ting while crossing the junction between Po Hing Fong and Upper Station Street in Mid-Levels, on September 1.

The court was told Fong had had no option but to reverse instead of making a U-turn because the road had been narrowed by illegally parked vehicles.

Fong pleaded guilty in Eastern Court yesterday to dangerous driving causing death and using a defective vehicle.

Mr Lin is survived by his wife and toddler daughter. The widow, whose name was not given yesterday, was present in court for the hearing with the support of five family members.

She broke down in tears when the prosecution recapped the details of the accident and cried uncontrollably upon sentencing.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung pleaded in mitigation that Fong had reversed at about 10km/h at the time of the accident and his truck had stayed in the centre of the road.

The truck, which passed its annual check-up two days prior to the accident, had already reversed for 40 metres before hitting the Lin and his child.

Principal magistrate Josiah Lam Wai-kuen agreed the case was not as serious as others but the truck had carried out a dangerous manoeuvre, which was made even more unsafe because of its inadequate warning aids.

'The act of reversing is not illegal. But while in reverse, the defendant failed to gain a clearer view of the road behind his truck and the truck had no reverse warning devices,' the magistrate said.

'This has led to a tragedy, for which the defendant has to take legal blame.'

The magistrate took a starting point of 12 months on the term imposed on the driver. He gave him a four-month reduction because he had pleaded guilty.

Lawmakers have proposed mandatory installation of closed-circuit television cameras on trucks after a string of fatal accidents last year involving reversing vehicles.

But transport workers' union leader Chiu Chi-keung said the process was not going well.

'Less than one-third of the trucks in Hong Kong have installed these cameras because, to many small-time operators, the costs are just too expensive.'

He said the latest invention contains a wide lens which adds three metres to the drivers' field of vision, but many small transport companies are hesitant to install these because of the cost, which is around HK$2,000 per unit.

Legco transport panel chairman Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, who said he believed Fong's sentence was too light to reflect the gravity of the offence, said the government had not done enough to realise its proposals.

The Transport Department said it had started to work on legislation to make the closed-circuit cameras mandatory.

The department has identified 77 black spots across the city where the risk to pedestrians of reversing vehicles is high.

It will determine whether any of these places require improved road safety measures.