Initial findings suggest that actor Aloysius Pang was unable to avoid a descending gun barrel, resulting in the injuries that led to his death, said top commanders in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on Thursday (24 January).
Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) HQ, Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Goh Si Hou revealed that the 28-year-old was caught between the end of the gun barrel and the interior of the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) that he and two other personnel were servicing.
“It appears from the initial findings that Aloysius was unable to get out of the way as the gun barrel was lowered…and he suffered crush injuries as a result,” said MG Goh.
“At the time of the incident, Aloysius was with another technician and a gun detachment commander. They were called in to perform diagnosis on a suspected fault in the gun. As part of the rectification process, the gun barrel was to be lowered to standby position.”
It takes between nine and 10 seconds for the gun barrel to be lowered, depending on its starting position, said the SAF commanders.
Pang was injured at Waiouru Training Area on Saturday, sustaining serious injuries to his chest and abdominal areas. The armament technician from the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery was participating in Exercise Thunder Warrior, an artillery live-firing exercise, at the time of the incident.
Pang passed away on Wednesday night (Singapore time) at Waikato Hospital, New Zealand, where he was warded in its intensive care unit, following a third operation on Tuesday night.
SAF is calling for an army-wide safety timeout and will also reduce the tempo of training in the army, navy and air force services. An independent Committee of Inquiry will be convened to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident.
MG Goh and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong would not be drawn on whether there were any lapses that occurred during the incident, how long Pang was caught between the barrel and the cabin or whether the lowering of the gun barrel might have been accidentally activated.
“This will be the focus of the investigation. It would not be appropriate for me to go into a lot of details about the operations within the cabin, as well as what happened,” said MG Goh.
But Colonel (COL) Terry Tan of the Combat Service Support Command (CSSCOM) did elaborate on the safety protocols that are to be followed when the SSPH gun barrel is lowered. “The technicians are taught to go to a safe place when they do certain maintenance tasks.”
COL Tan added that the gun barrel was being lowered in automatic mode. A verbal warning is also typically given, and a commander will visually check that the cabin is clear before the descent begins.
It is not yet known when Pang’s body will be flown back from New Zealand.
Pang’s death was the fourth SAF training-related fatality in the past 16 months under the watch of LG Ong as the top man in the SAF and when he was previously Chief of Army.
When asked what would be his message to parents who are worried about their sons serving NS, LG Ong said, “Parents are proud of their children serving National Service. But on the other hand, it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of their children.
“To the parents, I will say this: as a system, the SAF has put in place a good system. For all incidents that have occurred, for all the findings…on how to improve the safety system, we have fully (implemented them)…we always want to do better.”