SCDF officer jailed over drowning of NSF Kok Yuen Chin

SCDF Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood. PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore
SCDF Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood. PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore

A staff sergeant with the Singapore Civil Defence Force was on Tuesday (23 October) sentenced to more than one year in jail over the drowning of a full-time national serviceman.

Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, 34, was jailed 12 months for causing 22-year-old Corporal Kok Yuen Chin’s death by a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide at Tuas View Fire Station.

Fatwa, a hazardous materials specialist, also received another four weeks’ jail for abetting a colleague in the obstruction of justice by asking him to delete a video recording.

Fatwa will begin his sentence on Wednesday.

Four other SCDF officers have also been charged over the incident and their cases are pending.

Warrant Officer 1 Mohamed Farid Mohamed Saleh, 34, was charged with abetting a rash act that resulted in death. He is alleged to have instigated Fatwa by telling him to push Kok into a pump well.

Lieutenant Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 37, was charged with abetting a group of men to commit a rash act that caused grievous hurt by omitting to prevent them from pressuring Kok to enter the well. Chong was the commander of the rotation (ROTA 3) to which the men involved were attached.

Senior Warrant Officer 1 Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 40, the deputy commander of ROTA 3, was similarly charged with abetting a rash act that caused grievous hurt.

Staff Sergeant Adighazali Suhaimi, 32, was charged for intentionally obstructing the course of justice by allegedly deleting a video from his phone of Kok being pushed into the well.

The full details of the case were revealed in court on Tuesday. At about 8.30pm on 13 May, ROTA 3 officers gathered at the watch room on the ground floor of Tuas View Fire Station to celebrate Kok’s impending Operationally Ready Date in three days’ time; 13 May was his last day of duty. The officers presented him with a plaque and a cake.

The “kolam” ORD ritual

At about 9.05pm, Fatwa suggested that Kok partake in an ORD ritual of entering the pump well, or “kolam”, despite it being a form of ragging explicitly prohibited in SCDF; there were anti-ragging posters displayed around the fire station.

Other officers then started shouting, “kolam, kolam”, but Kok waved his hands to signal that he did not wish to partake in the ritual and said, “Don’t want, don’t want”.

However, Fatwa lifted Kok by his armpits. Two other officers then lifted Kok’s legs and the trio carried Kok towards the pump well, about 20m away from the watch room. The well was used for training as an open water source for fire engines, and had a depth of about 12m, with an internal diameter of about 1.8m. The water level at the time was about 11m.

Later, Adighazali and another officer took over from Fatwa and carried Kok’s upper body. While struggling as he was being carried to the well, Kok kept saying, “Jangan encik, jangan,” which meant “Don’t encik, don’t”, with encik referring to his superiors.

Everyone went out of the watch room except for ROTA 3’s commander Chong. He looked out of the window and saw the group near the pump well. He shouted at them, “No filming”, before looking away.

Kok was hesitant when told by a sergeant to remove his shirt, belt, boots and personal belongings but eventually complied. ROTA 3’s deputy commander Nazhan told Kok to jump closer to the ledge, and reminded the others not to take any photos or videos. He then left and went to his office.

The group then cheered and egged Kok on as he stood at the edge of the well. He looked worried and hesitated for 12 seconds. Farid told Kok to sit at the edge and he complied. Kok looked scared as he remained seated for 43 seconds.

Farid then told Fatwa to push Kok and he did so forcefully on the back with his right hand. Kok fell straight into the water without surfacing for air. He did not know how to swim.

Shortly after, a few officers including Fatwa jumped into the well – described by Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan as a “dark abyss” – in a bid to find Kok, to no avail. The firefighters then used a fire engine to pump the water out of the pump well.

Kok was found 36 minutes after falling into the well, at 9.43pm. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him, to no avail. The police received a call about the drowning at 10.58pm.

Kok’s family met Fatwa

The incident was captured on closed-circuit television cameras in the station.

Adighazali had also recorded part of the incident on his mobile phone, capturing the moment Kok was pushed into the well. At about 11.25pm he told Fatwa about the video. After viewing it, Fatwa told Adighazali, “delete, delete”.

The technology crime forensics branch of the police’s criminal investigation department later recovered the deleted video.

Outside the courtroom after he was sentenced, Fatwa, who cried in the dock, went up to Kok’s family to apologise. “I’m sorry,” he said tearfully as he held Kok’s father’s hand. Kok Meng Hwa, 56, a construction worker remained silent as he, too, cried. Kok’s paternal aunt told Fatwa in between sobs, “You shouldn’t have played this game.”

Speaking to reporters later, Kok’s father said no matter the sentence meted out, his son would not be coming back. He added that his son would not want his friends to get a harsh sentence.

Kok is also survived by his mother, an older sister who is 25 and a younger brother who is 21.

In the wake of the incident, the SCDF said it would decommission pump wells at all fire stations, following the recommendations of a Board of Inquiry.

For causing death by a rash act, Fatwa could have been jailed for up to five years and fined. For abetting to obstruct the course of justice, he could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.

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