Hong Kong

Trial begins in drunken driving death of US student visiting Hong Kong

By Timothy Chui (HK Edition)
Updated: 2010-01-12 07:35
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HONG KONG: The 34-year-old driver of a Japanese muscle car which mowed down an American student yesterday pleaded not guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

Daniel Sheung Kun-hoo pleaded guilty to two lesser charges including "using a defective vehicle." The charge states "both side door glasses and rear windshield (were covered with) tinted film which caused a decrease of light transmission." He was also charged with "driving a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration in his breath exceeding the prescribed limit".

Sheung spoke quietly as he stood in the dock. A dozen people looked on from the public gallery as he entered his pleas. Sheung had three times the legal limit of 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 ml of breath, according to police.

Kurt Leswing, a 21-year-old American student studying abroad, was struck by Sheung's Nissan GT-R Skyline November 7, 2008 shortly after 3:30 am near the Happy Valley tram stop.

Leswing was in the city as part of his Semester at Sea program, a ship-borne 15-week summer school program. Leswing died before arrival at Ruttonjee Hospital.

A University of Wisconsin student originally from Milwaukee, Leswing is survived by his parents and twin brother.

Under questioning by prosecutor David Chan, a witness to the accident and a cabbie of eight years, Siu Pui-lam testified Sheung sped out of Sports Road onto Wong Nai Chung Road traveling at around 80 to 90 kph.

Prior to the accident, Leswing was described as visibly intoxicated and wandering across the right and middle lanes of Wong Nai Chung Road, trying to flag down a taxi, Siu testified.

Although Leswing had been walking on the road and against traffic, seven cars were able to safely maneuver around the American, Siu testified. He added, traffic conditions were good with few cars on the road.

Siu testified that the seventh vehicle to pass Leswing was a vacant taxi. Siu added he did not see Sheung's brake lights light up. But he later corrected the two points under cross-examination by defense counsel.

Siu also said Sheung had asked an unidentified female passenger to leave the accident scene after he brought his vehicle to a stop.

Sheung's barrister John Haynes pointed out Siu's prior testimony that Sheung's car was not following closely behind the final taxi and that his brake lights did not light up did not match a witness statement Siu had furnished to police in March last year.

Haynes suggested Siu did not have line of sight of the tourist as the seventh vehicle had obscured his line of sight up until it had veered into the left lane to avoid Leswing.

Siu also testified Sheung had apologized three times to him and said he felt guilty when Siu had suggested a report to police be made.

Siu said through an interpreter, "(Sheung) said a report should not be made just yet," adding Sheung had pulled on Leswing's right arm after exiting his vehicle and running over to the injured pedestrian.

The trial continues today.

Sheung's car had continued traveling for 300 meters after hitting Leswing according to reports which also said Sheung himself had summoned his wife before calling police. Reports also said he had paid HK$745,000 for the high-performance car in 2007.

(HK Edition 01/12/2010 page1)