The family members of the late Aloysius Pang are now focused on trying their best to bring the actor home “as early as possible” and not on seeking answers to the fateful incident in New Zealand, said his visibly distraught manager Dasmond Koh on Thursday (24 January) night.
The 46-year-old founder of artiste management agency NoonTalk Media, where Pang was signed to, and Pang’s elder brother, Kenny Pang, 32, were speaking to reporters at a press conference held at a room in Changi Airport Terminal 3, shortly after arriving in Singapore from New Zealand.
When asked whether the family wanted more answers to how the incident occurred, Koh declined to comment, citing the “sensitive” nature of the ongoing investigation by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).
The ministry had earlier said that an independent Committee of Inquiry will be convened to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident.
“Of course, we will take it step by step. For the time being, that is not our primary concern. Our primary concern is to get Aloysius back,” added Koh, who was Pang’s longtime mentor.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Thursday night that a KC-135 tanker aircraft had been sent to New Zealand to repatriate Pang’s body.
Pang suffered grave injuries to his chest and abdominal areas on Saturday afternoon (19 January) after being caught between the end of the gun barrel and the interior of a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer that he and two other Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel were servicing.
At the time of the incident, Pang, who held the rank of Corporal First Class (National Service), was an armament technician from the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery and one of more than 500 soldiers participating in Exercise Thunder Warrior in New Zealand.
Pang succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday night, making him the fourth SAF-training related fatality in 16 months.
‘Precious’, ‘小瓜’ of the family
During the 14-minute conference, an emotional Koh broke down several times and often struggled to maintain his composure. Kenny appeared stoic, but visibly softened when describing Pang. Both men addressed reporters in English and Mandarin.
Of his 28-year-old brother, Kenny said the family’s “precious” was affectionately nicknamed “小瓜” (“little melon”).
His brother was caring and filial to his parents, whom he was very close to, he added.
“He was the precious of the family; the youngest and the most loved,” said Kenny. “To reciprocate that, he has also given the family all the support and love he can give.”
“What you see on television, and what you see from the responses that he has been receiving, all the love and care – that is who he is,” he added.
Apart from his parents, the younger Pang was also devoted to his passion for acting, he said.
The former child star, who began acting at nine, first became famous after he won Best Newcomer at Mediacorp’s Star Awards in 2015.
In a NoonTalk Media press conference held on Monday, Koh revealed that Pang had told his mother, who flew in earlier to see him, that he wanted to recover quickly so that he could return to acting in the upcoming Channel 8 romantic drama My One In A Million.
“I hope all his fans will concentrate their energy on his work and what he previously worked on. This is the most important thing,” said Koh on Thursday.
The family is also exploring the possibility of holding a memorial service for Pang’s fans and Mediacorp colleagues to pay their last respects to him.
“We will try our best to arrange it if we can, because we know a lot of fans want to bid farewell to him,” said Koh, who added that the family will likely share more concrete details in the next day or two.
Kenny took the opportunity to thank his brother’s fans for their “immense outpouring of care and concern” but stressed for privacy to be given to their family.
“On behalf of Aloysius, there’s a lot of gratitude for that,” he added. “We would like to appreciate you give us all the space you can, out of respect for Aloysius.”
‘Let him go’
Both Koh and Kenny also told reporters that they regretted not having the opportunity to communicate with the actor as he was unconscious by the time they landed in New Zealand.
The uncertainty of Pang’s outcome was akin to “riding a roller coaster”, said Koh.
Koh added, “Our emotions were going up and down because operations are usually like that: Things may go well, or they make take a turn for the worse.”
In a video handout played during Monday’s Mindef press conference, Pang was initially described by Dr Teo Li Tserng, chief of trauma and acute care surgery at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, as “doing well”, showing stable vitals and “breathing on his own”.
After his third and final operation, however, Pang’s condition worsened. He was subsequently placed on artificial life support for his lungs, kidneys, and heart at the intensive care unit in Waikato Hospital, New Zealand, where he died hours later.
“None of us can be mentally prepared for any of this…(The worst) has already happened,” said Kenny. “We are still trying to accept the reality that this has actually happened…Now it is really for us to grieve and let us calm ourselves down.”
Like how he began the conference by apologising for being uncontactable the past few days, a tearful Koh ended it with a heartfelt apology to fans for failing to bring Pang back “well and healthy”.
“That, I believe, was the news everyone wanted. But in these past few days, if he became tired and felt like it was time to give up, we have to accept and let him go in peace,” said Koh.
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