Adib's inquest: Elderly man panicked when his taxi was hit by FRT vehicle

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SHAH ALAM (Feb 19): An elderly man told the Coroner’s Court here today that he panicked when a Fire Rescue Tender (FRT) vehicle hit his taxi during the Sri Maha Mariamman temple riots in USJ 25, Subang Jaya on Nov 27 last year.

K Arumugam, 66, said he was driving his Proton Exora taxi back to his house, which is near the temple, at about 12.30am that day.

Arumugam, who is the 11th witness, said he could not get out of his taxi as the car’s doors were jammed shut after being hit by the FRT vehicle, and he only managed to get out when members of the public opened the door.

“After I got out of my taxi, I went back inside and it took me nearly half-an-hour to regain my composure. After that, a tow truck operator took my taxi to the USJ8 police station, where I also lodged a report,” he said when asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhafran Rahim Hamzah, who is also handling the inquest into the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

Zhafran: On Nov 27 last year, where were you and what happened?

Arumugam: On that day I was on my way home. At that time, an Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) van was in front of my taxi, while the FRT vehicle was ahead of the van. I saw the FRT reverse and hit the EMRS van before hitting the front of my taxi.

Zhafran: How can the FRT vehicle hit your taxi when the EMRS van was in front of you?

Arumugam: After the FRT hit the van, it (the van) swerved to the left and the FRT continued reversing before hitting my taxi, causing it to spin 180 degrees.

Zhafran: Did you see or remember who attacked the EMRS van or the FRT when it was reversing?

Arumugam: My focus was solely on the FRT reversing at that time.

Zhafran: Did you see anyone getting in or out of the FRT or EMRS?

Arumugam: I did not see because I panicked.

Asked by lawyer Syazlin Mansor, who is representing the Housing and Local Government Ministry and the Fire Department, why he did not turn his taxi to a different direction when he saw the FRT hitting the EMRS, Arumugam said he thought the FRT was only reversing, adding that it didn’t occur to him it would hit his taxi.

Syazlin: Did you see any fireman being carried and taken out from the scene of the incident?

Arumugam: I did not notice.

Coroner Rofiah Mohammad then asked the witness what he did in the taxi when he went back inside it and sat for 25 minutes after the accident. Arumugam replied he was just sitting down as he had a headache.

Muhammad Adib, 24, who was also an EMRS personnel from the Subang Jaya Fire and Rescue Station, was critically injured in the temple riots on Nov 27 last year and died on Dec 17 at the National Heart Institute (IJN).

The inquest continues on Thursday.