6 SAF servicemen fined by military court over death of NSF Dave Lee

Singapore
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SINGAPORE: A military court has fined six Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen over the death of Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said on Thursday (Sep 24).

First Sergeant (1SG) Chia Zhi Xuan was convicted of one charge of disobedience of general orders under Section 21 of the SAF Act. He was fined S$2,500.

Second Sergeant (2SG) Koh Ren Zhong was convicted of one charge of negligent performance of a lawful duty under Section 17(2) of the SAF Act. He was fined S$1,800.

Corporal (NS) Tan Jin Yang was convicted of two charges of negligent acts endangering life under Section 41(b) of the SAF Act. He was fined S$4,500 in respect of both charges.

CPL (NS) Chng Pheng Heng, CPL (NS) Jonas Ang Kai Jie and CPL (NS) Yep Ren Jie were each convicted of one charge of disobedience of general orders under Section 21 of the SAF Act and one charge of abuse of authority under Section 29 of the SAF Act. They were each fined S$2,500 and demoted to Corporal from the rank of Third Sergeant (3SG).

CFC Lee died aged 19 in April 2018, after suffering heatstroke following an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp. 

The six servicemen were charged in a military court on Feb 20 this year following investigations by the SAF’s Special Investigation Branch into potential breaches of military law surrounding the events in relation to CFC Lee’s death.

All of the six servicemen had pleaded guilty, MINDEF said.

READ: 6 SAF servicemen charged in military court over death of NSF Dave Lee

The servicemen who have been sentenced:

– 1SG Chia, 25, was the conducting officer who made “unauthorised deviations to the lesson plan for a training run the day before the fast march”, said MINDEF. He faced a charge for disobedience of general orders under section 21 of the SAF Act. 

– 2SG Koh, 26, was the safety officer for the fast march. He was charged for a negligent act endangering life under Section 41(b) of the SAF Act.

– CPL (NS) Tan, 24, was the medic for the fast march. He faced two charges for negligent acts endangering life under Section 41(b) of the SAF Act.

– 3SG (NS) Chng, 22; 3SG (NS) Ang, 24 and 3SG (NS) Yep, 22, were all section commanders who “meted out the unauthorised punishment the day before the fast march”.

They each faced three charges – two charges for disobedience of general orders under Section 21 of the SAF Act and one charge for abuse of authority under Section 29 of the SAF Act.

READ: Family, friends bid final farewell to national serviceman Dave Lee

In February 2020, an SAF captain who was charged in 2018 with causing the NSF’s death by a rash act was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

Captain Tan Baoshu, 31, was the supervising officer of the fast march and was accused of failing to evacuate CFC Lee in a timely manner. He was also accused of not allowing the necessary treatment to be administered to CFC Lee, causing the latter’s death from heat stroke.

An Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) spokesperson said the discharge not amounting to an acquittal meant the prosecution would stop pursuing the charge, but did not mean that the accused was acquitted.

The AGC spokesperson told CNA that CPT Tan was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. CPT Tan died on Feb 13.

READ: Death of NSF Dave Lee: COI highlights inadequate casualty management, delayed evacuation as factors

Since the incident in 2018, the SAF has improved its heat injury management and prevention measures, including simplifying the evacuation protocol, increasing heat injury awareness for commanders and medics, and strengthening an open reporting culture.

“Over the past two years, the SAF has seen a 40 per cent decline in the number of heat injury cases, and there have been no cases of heat stroke,” MINDEF said on Thursday.

“MINDEF/SAF will continue to review and identify ways to strengthen our safety management and training system, with the goal of achieving zero training fatalities.”

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