SAF captain given discharge not amounting to acquittal over NSF's death due to officer's terminal cancer

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
·2-min read
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) National Servicemen, soldiers (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) National Servicemen, soldiers (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) captain has been given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNATA) over the death of a full-time national serviceman due to his terminal illness.

CPT Tan Baoshu, 31, has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, a spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) told Yahoo News Singapore on Wednesday (5 February). Following the application by the AGC, the court granted the DNATA against CPT Tan.

CPT Tan was charged with committing a rash act causing the death of Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee, who collapsed after a fast march on 18 April 2018. He was the Officer Commanding of the Support Company of 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, the unit where CFC Lee was serving his NS duties.

According to the court system, CPT Tan was given a DNATA on 8 January. He was charged with the offence on 31 October 2018 and later claimed trial. His trial, originally slated to begin next Wednesday, has been vacated.

CFC Lee, 19, had completed an 8km fast march in Bedok Camp on 18 April 2018 before he showed signs of heat injury and had to be hospitalised. He died two weeks after being admitted to Changi General Hospital.

CPT Tan was the supervising officer for the fast march, which happened between 6.30am and 8.25am. He was accused of failing to evacuate CFC Lee in a timely manner and for not allowing necessary treatment to be administered to him from 8.25am to 9.10am.

COI into CFC Lee’s death

A Committee of Inquiry (COI) convened after CFC Lee’s death found that the NSF had died from multiple organ injuries as a result of heat stroke. It assessed that CFC Lee had succumbed to the injuries likely due to inadequate on-site casualty management and delayed evacuation to the medical centre.

It noted possible contributing causes including accumulated fatigue, insufficient rest, CFC Lee’s less-than-optimal state of health and his potential use of medication. CFC Lee had been taking medication in the weeks prior to the fast march for acute upper respiratory tract infection.

His platoon was also given unauthorised punishment in the form of physical exercises for about 30 minutes the night before the 8km fast march. The commander was punishing the team for a perceived lack of teamwork and using mobile phones after lights out despite repeated warnings.

The COI felt that the punishment compromised the soldiers’ required seven hours of rest. The lack of sleep could have been the one of the factors which caused CFC Lee to be more fatigued before the fast march.

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