An octogenarian French-Cambodian man with bad eyesight and a string of health problems hit and killed a woman on a motorbike with his speeding SUV in Sihanoukville on Tuesday before plowing into several more vehicles and a car wash while attempting to flee the scene, injuring six others, police said Wednesday.
Police identified the suspect as Heng Kao, a recently widowed 84-year-old who splits his time between his home in France and Sihanoukville, where he stays with his 28-year-old girlfriend and their adopted 3-year-old son, who was in the car during the rampage.
Preah Sihanouk provincial traffic police chief Prom Pov said the suspect was driving his Honda SUV at high speed along Khmer-Soviet Friendship Street close to Phsar Peanich Kam market. At about 1:30 p.m. he crashed into 41-year-old Chea Kimsak, who was driving a Honda Dream motorbike, killing her instantly.
“Eyewitnesses said the suspect was driving his car fast when he hit the woman, who was not wearing a helmet and died at the scene, and that afterward, he tried to escape,” Mr. Pov said.
After sending pedestrians in the busy shopping area diving out of his path, he collided with another motorbike, seriously injuring the 26-year-old driver, Choeng Phanva.
“Instead of stopping, he sped up, but lost control of the car and ended up crashing into a [car wash], where he wrecked two cars and a motorbike and injured five workers, including 20-year-old Chan Pov, who was seriously wounded,” Mr. Pov said.
Provincial deputy police chief Y Sokha said Mr. Kao’s 3-year-old son was in the back seat of the car but escaped unharmed as he was wearing a seatbelt.
“His 3-year-old adopted son was in shock, but fortunately he was not injured because he was buckled in, so we returned him to his [adoptive mother],” Mr. Sokha said.
“The suspect took responsibility and said he crashed into the woman because his eyesight failed and then tried to flee from the scene because he was afraid that passersby would beat him for causing the accident,” he added.
Nop Saroeun, a traffic police officer who brought the suspect to the provincial court Wednesday, said the court charged him with careless driving causing death and serious injury. According to the penal code, unintentional homicide is punishable by one to three years in prison.
Mr. Kao’s girlfriend, Chhorn Vannach, said he left her apartment Tuesday afternoon to take their son for a drive, but that she did not know where they had planned to go. She added that Mr. Kao suffered from a number of age-related health issues.
“He stays at his relative’s home in Koh Kong and just comes to visit, but he had just come back from France in early October where he saw his doctor, as he has heart disease, high blood pressure and also poor sight and bad hearing,” she said.
Keph Sopheak, deputy provincial traffic police chief, confirmed that Mr. Kao spends most of his time with his son and daughter in France, where his wife died two months ago.
“The old man is more than 80 years old and he has a valid driver’s license, though I do not know how, because he has not had any health checks,” Mr. Sopheak said.
Under Article 42 of the traffic law, drivers aged 65 years and older must pass a medical exam every two years in order to extend their licenses.
(Additional reporting by Simon Henderson)