The Bionix armoured vehicle that reversed into and mounted the Land Rover driven by full-time national serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai – and subsequently killing him – was responding to simulated enemy fire, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday (19 November).
A trainer was also in the vehicle with the late Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu during the incident which occurred at a training exercise on 3 November, said Ng, in a written reply to questions by Members of Parliament. The trainer was unhurt while CFC Liu later succumbed to his injuries.
According to media reports, Ng added that an external review panel will be convened by the Ministry of Defence to look at current policies and measures related to combat vehicle training safety.
Police investigations are ongoing and an independent Committee of Inquiry has been convened to investigate the incident.
Following the accident, an army-wide safety timeout on training has been called to ensure all appropriate safety measures are in place.
CFC Liu, a transport operator from the Singapore Armed Forces’ Transport Hub West, operated a Land Rover as part of a simulated enemy encounter at the Jalan Murai training area on 3 November at 10.10am.
The vehicle was parked behind the Bionix armoured vehicle, which was part of the exercise. While reversing away from simulated enemy fire during the exercise, the latter reversed into the Land Rover and partially mounted it.
Training was halted immediately and the on-site medic attended to CFC Liu.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Emergency Ambulance Service, a unit medical officer and the Singapore Civil Defence Force were activated and arrived to attend to CFC Liu, who was pronounced dead at 10.35am.
“There are obviously a number of questions that need to be answered in determining the cause of this incident,” said Ng.
Among them include whether safety protocols were followed by the crew of the Land Rover and the Bionix vehicle during the exercise, whether the vehicle commander, driver, and crew of the Bionix vehicle were aware of the Land Rover behind them as well as any mechanical malfunction of vehicles or platforms.
Over the past three years, Ng said the Army has deployed more regulars to supervise and conduct the training of NSFs. The Army is also reviewing the experience level and roles of supervising, conducting and safety officers to further strengthen training and safety processes.
Other NS training deaths
CFC Liu’s passing is the third national service training-related death in 14 months.
CFC Dave Lee died of heat injuries after participating in an 8km fast march on 30 April.
Third Sergeant Gavin Chan was also killed while participating in an overseas exercise in Australia on 15 September last year, when a Bionix infantry fighting vehicle he was guiding out of difficult terrain landed on its side.
Separately, an SAF regular serviceman died in Brunei after he was hit by a falling tree branch on 9 October.
In his ministerial statement in Parliament on 17 May, Ng noted that there had been an average of one national service training-related death a year over the past two decades.
Pointed out that there were no NS-training deaths between 2013 and 2016, Ng said then that the External Review Panel looking into safety at the SAF will also be involved in the COI for all training-related deaths.
“With these multiple layers of safety, and with experts within and outside assisting the SAF, we can move decisively to make zero training death the norm. I know it’s difficult but it must be done,” Ng added.