Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? – George Carlin, American stand-up comedian, author and social critic
Road accidents of any kind, fatal or not, always bring change or changes to one’s life, the environment, even to society, especially if it involves any death. Not everything remains status quo.
When I received an early phone call from my cousin brother Paul, now 40, of Miri on Sarawak Day four years ago, I answered it nervously. As he never called before — we just communicated by WhatsApp — I knew he would be telling me about something out of the ordinary. My first thought it would be about his father, then 84 (now 88), the only sibling of my late mom left.
Paul, sounding composed, told me his elder brother Eddie, aged 54, was involved in a car crash in Niah and succumbed to his injuries. I was lost for words as this was really shocking and unexpected. That brought a lot of changes to my family’s plans for the Sarawak Day and the few subsequent days.
To the immediate bereaved family, it was the first death at their Piasau Phase II home, where I used to stay while having a weekend visit to Miri during my days in the Brunei sultanate. My late cousin brother Eddie, fondly known as Dom, was my constant companion during those visits. I could easily imagine the changes such loss brought to them, especially to my frail uncle and aunty who were both regular patients at the Miri Hospital and other health care centres.
Being a bread winner for the family besides Paul, Dom’s demise certainly was a great loss. They are not well-off; my uncle Gawing who retired from Sarawak Shell Berhad at 55 in 1988 has long exhausted his resources, leaving now only Paul as their main bread winner with some support from Dom’s two working sons.
A veteran of one fatal accident that took the lives of my first-born daughter, 5, and my niece, 9, I have experienced such predicaments myself. Due to my cerebral concussion that lasted about five weeks, leaving me to be under treatment at both the Lau King Howe Hospital in Sibu and the Sarawak General Hospital for a total of seven weeks, I was not involved in a lot of vital things such as the funerals of the two girls, the police reports and others.
Insurance claims and other related matters were done after I totally recovered. My wife then, who was on the passenger seat next to me, was also hurt in the accident but was admitted to the Lau King Howe Hospital in Sibu for one day only and discharged as she suffered only minor injuries and furthermore she had to be at our daughter’s funeral and to run related matters.
Members of my family were also very much involved, especially in the funerals that were conducted in two venues, namely my longhouse in Kedap, Saratok for my daughter Garcia Ann Kejuang and my brother-in-law’s longhouse in Bawang Assan, Sibu for my niece Daphne.
We have to adjust to the sudden change, including engaging legal counsels to handle legal matters, especially those on hearing and claims. Thank God, Garcia’s mom and I were the victims and were served with subpoena to be prosecution witnesses.
In 1997, seven years after the accident, I had to come to Sibu from Kuala Belait, Brunei Darussalam for a court hearing as witness. However, the other party pleaded guilty to reckless driving and causing death under Section 41 (c) of the Road Transport Act 1987. The culprit was sentenced to two weeks’ jail and fined RM4,000 in lieu of three months’ imprisonment. How cheap two lives could be.
My other serious road misdemeanour, thanks and no thanks to Jack Daniels, was in 2001 in Bandar Seri Begawan, going against the traffic flow at 2am. Realising half-way, I made a sudden turn going into the Lapau and hit the gate —making me the first person to do so since the beginning of time. Such stupid act cost me my fanciful and sporty B$8.5k Daewoo Racer II and two-night cosy stay at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital that generously charged me B$1,504.
Luckily, I was covered by insurance and Brunei Press had to settle the bill. I had to deposit B$2,000 as bond with the police and by the time I left in 2002, the case was still pending and so was the B$2,000 bond.
My life was never the same. I had to report to the police station once monthly and later once in two months until I left Brunei for good in early 2002 when my dad was critically ill in Saratok. Instead of driving the flashy two-year-old Daewoo, I had to settle for an old two-door Nissan Pulsar Coupe and had to come back to Brunei many times to get the three-month pass renewed.
What if the accident never happened, I asked myself many times? It could have been avoided if not for the super ego of a drunken stupid self. A lot of adjustments had to be made to cope up and comply with various post-crash needs.
There have been other mishaps that brought inconveniences but space doesn’t permit the detailed tales. But we must remember we are always vulnerable on the roads.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.