SINGAPORE — The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) expressed regret that commanders who were involved in the incident that led to the death of Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee “did not perform their duties to ensure the well-being of soldiers under their care”, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Thursday (28 January) in a statement on Facebook.
Calling CFC Lee “an exemplary soldier who served with commitment”, Mindef said, “His passing is a sad loss to his family and to the SAF. We express our deep condolences to the late CFC Lee’s family.”
The Mindef statement comes a day after State Coroner (SC) Kamala Ponnampalam ruled that CFC Lee’s death in 2018 following a fast march arising from a heat stroke was contributed significantly by the inadequate measures taken by the relevant SAF personnel.
“The ensuing on-site management was abysmal. The first-aid rendered was suboptimal, and there was inordinate delay in evacuating CFC Lee to the medical centre,” said the SC.
Jasmine Lee, CFC Lee’s mother, spoke to reporters after the ruling, saying that the lapses were “unforgivable” and “too outrageous”.
Mindef said, “Safety of our soldiers is a core value and should never be compromised during training. Commanders who breached training and discipline regulations in this incident failed in their duties and have been dealt with accordingly.”
Its statement also mentioned the actions taken against Captain (CPT) Tan Baoshu, the supervising officer of the fast march, and six other servicemen.
CPT Tan, 31, was charged on 31 October 2018 with committing a rash act causing CFC Lee’s death on 30 April 2018. The officer was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on 8 January last year, after he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He died on 13 February last year.
The six servicemen pleaded guilty to their specific breaches of military law and were convicted and sentenced by the Subordinate Military Court. “They are not fit for and have been removed from positions of command.”
Since the incident, the SAF has enhanced its heat injury management and prevention protocols, in line with the recommendations from the Committee of Inquiry and an External Review Panel. The improvements include the simplified protocol for immediate evacuation, additional methods to cool servicemen during training, the training of commanders and soldiers to recognise the signs and symptoms of heat injuries, and the emphasis on open reporting.
“The SAF will continually strive to improve our safety systems to achieve zero training fatalities even as we train our soldiers to defend Singapore against all threats,” Mindef said.
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