In a nutshell
* Teen hit by cement mixer while cycling across pedestrian crossing
* Awarded $390,000 after suing driver for negligence
* Driver fined $800, disqualified from driving for three months
By Teh Joo Lin
Like any 14-year-old, Navintheren Murugiah would often cycle around his neighbourhood with his friends.
It was no different on a clear day in November 2006 when he rode to a bicycle shop near his Tanglin Halt home to get his bike repaired.
He was riding across a pedestrian crossing when a cement mixer, which was turning left, hit him.
His left foot was crushed by its wheel.
‘I felt the impact first on my leg and my lips. I was just sitting down looking at a big truck in front of me. I thought I was going to die,’ said Navintheren, now 17.
His foot was so badly mangled that his leg had to be amputated from below the knee. He also sustained a cut on his lip.
Last month, he was awarded $390,000 by the High Court after he and his mother sued the driver for negligence in November 2008.
For the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student, who now walks around with the help of a prosthesis, the verdict was a ray of light at the end of a long tunnel.
‘It’ll help me a lot for the future…with my treatment and all that,’ said Navintheren, who will have to undergo regular prosthesis changes for the rest of his life.
His father, a landscape technician, died recently.
His mother, a security officer who earns about $1,100 a month, is the family breadwinner. Navintheren has an older brother in national service and a younger brother, 13, who has a heart ailment that requires regular treatment.
Navintheren still has vivid memories of that fateful day. He was the first among his friends – all cyclists – to reach the crossing.
After he was hit, his friends got the attention of the driver, who stopped the truck.
‘I was shouting like crazy. When I saw my leg, I was disgusted,’ he said, adding that he was still conscious and did not feel the pain until later.
In hospital, doctors amputated half his leg after finding the foot severely crushed and the blood vessels broken.
His mother, Madam Kannagie Renganathan, recalls: ‘I couldn’t see his foot, I couldn’t see his toes, it was so hard to see his leg like that.’
Dark days followed. He was haunted by nightmares, and things got worse more than a month later when the avid soccer player returned to school in a wheelchair.
‘Friends were looking strangely at me. They didn’t even like to be with me because they had to push me around. Some even called me names. It was difficult, and I hated people who pitied me. I was independent and suddenly, I was in a wheelchair, needing people to help me.’
The driver, Teo Kian Keong, 54, later pleaded guilty to driving without reasonable consideration for others using the road.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and six months’ jail.
In August 2008, he was fined $800 and disqualified from driving for three months.
More than three years after the accident, Navintheren has come to terms with the loss of his mobility.
‘No matter what happens, just be yourself. Just stay confident,’ he said.
He plans to enrol in a polytechnic after he completes his ITE course in automotive technology in less than two years’ time.
He also wants to prevent more cyclists from getting hurt on the roads.
Statistics released last Friday show 17 cyclists died last year, five fewer than in 2008.
‘If I see someone riding very fast in front of me, I will yell at them to go slowly,’ he said, adding that cyclists should dismount when they use a pedestrian crossing.