Fourth SCDF NSF fined for sharing photos of fatal Bionix accident

Wan Ting Koh
The accident on 3 November 2018 involved a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle (left) and a Land Rover driven by 22-year-old NSF Liu Kai (right). (PHOTOS: Mindef / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A fourth man has been fined for circulating photos from the scene of a fatal accident involving two military vehicles.

Mohamad Haikal Mohd Zainal Abiddin, 21, was one of five full-time national servicemen (NSFs) from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) who were earlier charged with circulating the photos of the site.

The accident, which involved a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle and a Land Rover, resulted in the death of 22-year-old NSF Liu Kai.

At the State Courts on Monday (20 January), Haikal was fined $3,000 after pleading guilty to two counts of wrongful communication of information that he received while serving as an NSF. His actions were in breach of the Official Secrets Act.

The four other SCDF NSFs involved are Corporal Muhammad Arif Azman, 22, Sergeant 1 Brandon Tan Jien Jet ,21, Muhammad Zaki Haji Mokhtar, 24, and Sergeant 1 Thng Yu Xuan, 21. Arif was fined $3,000, while Tan and Zaki were each fined $1,500 for their actions. Thng has not been dealt with by the court.

Snapped photos of accident scene

The accident took place on 3 November 2018 at the Murai Urban Training Facility. Liu had been driving a Land Rover during a training exercise when a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle reversed into his vehicle and partially mounted it. Liu died that morning.

At about 10.20am that day, the SCDF despatched 15 men from the Jurong Fire Station in response to the accident. Arif, Haikal and Thng were part of the team that assisted in extricating Liu.

Upon their arrival, they found the Land Rover crushed below the Bionix. Before the extrication began, Arif used his personal smartphone to take two photographs of the scene. Both images captured the Bionix and the Land Rover crushed beneath it.

Haikal followed suit and took five photographs of the scene, three of which captured the Bionix and the Land Rover, with the other two photographs showing the licence plates of the Bionix and Land Rover. None of the photos showed Liu.

After rendering assistance, the SCDF officers returned to Jurong Fire Station at about 2pm. Arif and Haikal then sent the photographs to a WhatsApp chat group comprising 24 present and former SCDF personnel from Jurong Fire Station. The group’s members included all five NSFs who were charged for circulating the photos.

Haikal also sent the five photographs of the accident to his friend, Singapore Armed Forces NSF Royce Tan Hwee Han, who was attached to Keat Hong Camp at the time.

Offender aware of images’ ‘sensitive nature’

According to the prosecution, Haikal was “cognisant of the sensitive nature of the photographs”. He knew that he was not authorised to communicate the five photographs to the WhatsApp group and Royce Tan, added the prosecution.

Tan, Zaki and Thng further disseminated the photographs sent by Arif and Haikal to their friends and family.

The offences came to light later that same day. Jurong Fire Station’s commander was notified that a photograph of the accident site had been circulating over WhatsApp.

The photograph captured the back view of the Bionix partially on top of and crushing the Land Rover and was taken through the front windscreen of a SCDF vehicle. Following internal investigations, Arif and Haikal were identified as the culprits.

For his breach of the Official Secrets Act, Haikal could have been jailed for up to two years, fined a maximum $2,000, or both.

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