Safety breaches led to deaths of NSFs

Pictures of Private Dominique Sarron Lee Rui Feng with his headstone at the cemetery. Pte Lee, a 21-year-old full-time national serviceman (NSF), experienced breathing difficulties during an urban obstacle training exercise in Lim Chu Kang on April 17, 2012.

SINGAPORE - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed in a ministerial statement to Parliament on Wednesday the details of the Commitees of Inquiry (COI) into the deaths of Private (Pte) Lee Rui Feng Dominique Sarron, 21, on April 17, and Third Sergeant (3SG) Tan Mou Sheng, 20, on May 11.

He revealed that Pte Lee died of an allergic reaction in a training exercise after a platoon commander threw six smoke grenades, even though regulations specified no more than two grenades were to have been used.

He revealed that the cause of death was certified by the forensic pathologist of the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to be due to an "acute allergic reaction to zinc chloride due to inhalation of zinc chloride fumes".

The COI believed that "if the Training Safety Regulations had been complied with, PTE Lee and his platoon mates would not have been subjected to smoke that was as dense as that during the incident".

In the case of 3SG Tan who died after a jeep he was in overturned, it was found that individual negligence and breaches of safety had contributed to 3SG Tan's death.

Firstly, the master sergeant had assigned an unlicensed driver to the vehicle, and the rear passengers including 3SG Tan did not wear a helmet or put on their seat belts.

Other incidents of unlicensed driving were also found at the Combat Intelligence School, where the accident happened.

A Commanding Officer and six other commanders have been redeployed to other assignments which do not require them to supervise soldiers for training or operations.

The Chief Military Prosecutor will determine if these personnel should be subjected to a General Court Martial (GCM).

Police investigations are also ongoing to determine if the personnel involved, including the unlicensed driver of the jeep, should be prosecuted in a Civil Court.

Dr Ng said the SAF and Mindef were "deeply sorry for the untimely and tragic loss of Pte Lee and 3SG Tan and the anguish and distress it has brought to their families".

He concluded: "These two deaths could have been avoided if safety instructions had been followed."

"The SAF will learn from the incidents, correct any inadequacies and punish those who disregarded safety regulations," he also said.

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