Penang Bridge crash: Former hairstylist found guilty, gets jail and fine

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A former hairstylist was sentenced to three years in jail by the Bukit Mertajam Magistrate’s Court today after finding him guilty at the end of the defence’s case for causing the death of a college student by reckless driving more than two years ago.

Sessions Court Judge Ahzal Fariz Ahmad Khairuddin, presiding as a Magistrate, also fined M Vaitheswaran, 23, RM10,000, in default a year’s jail.

He also ordered for Vaitheswaran’s driving licence to be suspended for five years.

Ahzal Fariz said the prosecution had succeeded in proving a case beyond reasonable doubt against Vaitheswaran.

“After listening to all the witnesses and submissions by both the prosecution and defence, the court finds that the prosecution had proved their case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused.

“And as such, the accused is convicted of the charge,” he said before ordering Vaitheswaran to enter his mitigation.

Vaitheswaran’s lawyer, K Paramanathan, told the court that his client was only 20 years old and was working as a trainee hairstylist at the time of the incident.

He added that since his client was prosecuted in court, he had been jobless after his driving licence was suspended.

“In this case, the deceased was a friend of my client, and the death was a trauma which would remain with my client.

“As such, I appeal to the court for the lightest punishment,” he said.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohammad Nazri Abdul Rahim, however, pressed for a heavy sentence due to the nature of the case.

He said the case was of public interest and had been widely reported in the media since the beginning.

He added that Vaitheswaran’s failure to admit to the crime from the onset had wasted the court as well as the prosecution’s time and cost.

“Taking into consideration the frequency of such cases, we pressed for a heavy sentence. More so, this case involved someone’s death.

“Imagine the parents losing a child whom they could depend on. The impact faced by the family was also a great burden to bear,” he added.

Ahzal Fariz said it was the court’s duty to impose a heavy sentence to serve as a lesson to others so such a case will not recur in the future.

“This will also serve as a lesson to Vaitheswaran so he will be more careful in the future and will send a clear message to others out there,” he added before passing down the three years’ jail sentence beginning today and the RM10,000 fine.

Paramanathan then stood up to request for a stay of execution for the jail sentence and told the court that they would pay the fine.

“We will be submitting an appeal tomorrow,” he said.

State prosecution director Datuk Khairul Anuar Abdul Halim, however, objected to Paramanathan’s request, pointing out that there was no special reason to grant Vaitheswaran a stay of execution for the jail sentence.

Ahzal Fariz rejected Paramanathan’s request for a stay of execution for the jail sentence.

Outside the court, Vaitheswaran’s father was overheard saying there was nothing they could do but to respect the court’s decision.

He was also spotted with teary eyes when he spoke to his son who was led out in handcuffs.

Danial Saad/NST

Vaitheswaran was charged with causing the death of Moey Yun Peng, then 20, who was also his friend, at Km4 of the Penang Bridge (Prai-bound) at about 3am on Jan 20, 2019.

He was charged under Section 41 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987, which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to RM20,000, if convicted.

Prior to this, he was out on RM7,000 bail.

In the incident, the Mazda CX-5 sports utility vehicle (SUV) driven by Moey plunged into the sea after it collided with the Toyota Vios driven by the accused.

A dashcam video of the incident which went viral on Facebook showed the black Toyota Vios driven by Vaitheswaran zig-zagging the three lanes of the bridge before crashing into the Mazda CX-5 SUV.

The Mazda flipped twice across three lanes, then slipped past the concrete guardrails to crash into the sea.

A massive search and recovery team managed to winch out the white Mazda two days after the incident, which was submerged 15m underwater at Pier 34 of the bridge, heading towards Prai. – NST