The family of a 19-year-old full-time National Serviceman who died on Monday (30 April) are demanding a “full explanation” from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) after an anonymous note alleging negligence by commanders began circulating online.
Private (PTE) Lee Han Xuan Dave, a Guardsman from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, displayed signs of heat injury in the morning of 18 April after completing an 8km fast march in Bedok Camp, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement on Monday.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (1 May), Cecilia Yeo, the deceased’s aunt, shared the contents of a Facebook post from a “fellow soldier” claiming that “Dave struggled to complete his fast march” and showed signs of extreme physical exhaustion but was forced by senior commanders to finish it.
The anonymous Facebook user accused commanders of not following the proper protocol for a soldier in heat exhaustion. Sergeants were just surrounding the young NSF “talking cock and launching and cracking jokes around him, obviously thinking the soldier is trying to keng”, the user added.
Referencing the note, Yeo said that “while the truth can’t bring my nephew back, he deserves the truth to be told.”
“I am sharing this in pain but we demand full explanation from SAF to the public, who trustingly sent their children to serve the nation. I hope you share our pain and support that SAF must release full investigation and identity of all culprits to the public,” she wrote.
According to Mindef’s statement, an SAF medic attended to Lee immediately on 18 April to bring down his core temperature, and the private was then evacuated to the camp’s Medical Centre where the SAF medical team continued body cooling measures and treatment on him.
Lee was brought to Changi General Hospital, where he remained warded in the intensive care unit.
“Unfortunately, PTE Lee’s condition did not improve in the ICU and worsened during the hospitalisation,” said Mindef. He was pronounced dead at 5.32pm on Monday at the hospital.
“The Ministry of Defence and the SAF extend their deepest condolences to the family of the late serviceman and are assisting the family in this time of grief,” the statement added.
Yahoo News Singapore has sent queries to Mindef for their reaction.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Chief of Staff – General Staff Brigadier-General Siew Kum Wong said that as with all training related deaths, the Armed Forces Council would convene an independent Committee of Inquiry (COI), chaired by a senior civil servant from outside Mindef/SAF to investigate the incident.
“The COI has full powers and access to information and personnel to investigate the circumstances leading to death, determine the contributory factors, and make recommendations to rectify any lapses or inadequacies uncovered. Should there be training safety violations, the personnel responsible will be held accountable,” he wrote.
In recognition of Lee’s service, he was accorded posthumous recognition of the rank of Corporal First Class (CFC), Siew said. The late Lee will also be given a military funeral, he added.
Separately, in a Facebook post on Monday, Jasmine Yeo, the mother of Lee, revealed that her son had signed up to donate his cornea before his passing.
According to news reports, Lee was the only child of Yeo, a spa manager, and property agent Dennis Lee. He attended Rulang Primary School, Yuhua Secondary School and Jurong Junior College. He enlisted into national service in early January this year.
On Tuesday, the bereaved mother also shared her sister’s Facebook post urging friends to find the truth about Lee’s death.