Man jailed for driving forklift over co-worker's legs, which were later amputated

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
A close-up shot of a forklift. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
A close-up shot of a forklift. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A forklift driver drove forward despite having his vision blocked, and collided into a man who was crossing his path.

Unable to stop, Periyasamy Vivek, 34, drove over the 36-year-old victim’s legs, causing both legs to be amputated in March last year.

Periyasamy, an Indian national, was jailed for two weeks on Tuesday (6 July) after he pleaded guilty to one count of causing grievous hurt to the victim through a negligent act.

Forklift shifting 5,000kg concrete blocks

Periyasamy was employed by Sembcorp Marine as a supervisor and held a valid forklift driver’s licence. The victim, also an Indian national, was employed by a sub-contractor of Sembcorp.

On 23 March last year, Periyasamy and the victim were at work at Sembcorp's Tuas South Boulevard worksite. The victim was tasked to operate a hydro-jetting machine, while Periyasamy was assigned a forklift to shift concrete blocks at a dry dock. Each concrete block weighed 5,000kg.

Periyasamy knew that, while driving the forklift, he was to keep a safe distance from others to ensure that it could be safely stopped, all the while taking into account the load it bore.

He also knew that if his front vision was obscured while driving the forklift, he was supposed to drive it only in reverse.

Picked up speed and collided with victim

At about 3.30pm that day, Periyasamy loaded a concrete block along with wooden wedges onto the forklift at the dry dock. The items blocked his line of vision.

Periyasamy then reversed the vehicle while looking back. However he realised at one point that he would hit some paint cans if he reversed further.

He decided to move the forklift forward, despite not being able to see in front of him. At the same time, the victim, who was on the way to the toilet, walked across the open space of the dry dock. The victim noticed the forklift moving in his direction at a slow speed, and decided it was safe enough to walk across the path of the forklift.

However the forklift picked up speed after the victim had taken a few steps. The victim tried to take some steps back but did not manage to move in time.

The forklift’s concrete block collided into the victim’s left hip, throwing him onto his back on the floor. Periyasamy saw the victim only when he fell backwards, and immediately stepped on the brakes. 

However, due to the load the forklift was carrying as well as its inherent weight, it continued rolling forward. The wheels of the forklift ran over the victim’s legs before coming to a halt.

Two surgeries to amputate both legs

The victim was conveyed to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital where he was found with a right hip fracture, and open right knee fracture or dislocation, a left calf fracture, an open left ankle fracture and a fractures to both feet.

He was transferred to the National University Hospital due to the severity of his injuries, where he later underwent two surgeries to amputate both legs above the knees. He was hospitalised for a total of 11 days.

The victim was fitted with prosthetics on 13 October last year and is able to walk with the help of walking aids.

Periyasamy, who was unrepresented, pleaded for the court’s leniency through a court interpreter. He said he was the sole breadwinner of a family of five and faced significant debts. He asked for a lighter sentence or fine so that he could return home as soon as possible.

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