It’s a sad day when a young man of 19 has to die while serving country. It’s even sadder when there’s no war, and the death is due to negligence.
But that’s what happened and finally, after months of sorry, no comments while investigating, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) is ready to answer to the public.
But first, before we get into the updates, let’s do a quick recap to refresh your memories
On 18 Apr 2018, Pte Lee Han Xuan Dave, a soldier in the 1st Guards Battalion took part in an 8km fast march.
He “displayed signs of heat injury” after the march and was attended to by a SAF medic. He was evacuated to the medical centre, after which he was sent to Changi General Hospital.
His condition worsened in the hospital and he passed away on 30 Apr 2018 and posthumously promoted to Corporal First Class (CFC).
Committee of Inquiry Set Up, Netizens Started Telling Stories
As with any investigation, SAF refuses to comment on the incident while investigations are ongoing.
It didn’t help that shortly after, a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) NSF, unfortunately, died as well.
But the SCDF was very open and shared the findings of the investigation with the public whenever possible.
So it led to the public thinking that SAF is trying to cover up the incident along with alleged mistreatment and safety lapses.
The mother of the Dave Lee had said that the tekan culture in SAF has to stop. She added that her son has died to prove the point.
COI Released Findings of Investigation into NSF’s Death
Now, fast forward three months and the COI is ready to share their findings, and it’s a pretty damning one for the SAF.
It was found that NSF Dave Lee’s death was preventable.
The day before the 8km fast march, there was a training in which Dave Lee were made to run at a slightly faster pace than required and a shorter rest time between each lap, which are “a breach of training safety regulations. ”
Also, that night, Dave Lee’s platoon was given unauthorised physical punishment: They were made to do bear crawls, sprints, leopard crawls and sprints for around 30 minutes.
This led to the soldiers having 6 hours and 15 minutes of rest, 45 minutes short of the 7 hours rest required.
The more damning fact is that the informal punishment, which was done as two troopers had repeatedly used their mobile phone after lights out, wasn’t official: the relevant commanders had not seek approval or inform their superiors about it.
And these commanders even told the men not to switch on the lights in their bunk (for reasons that are pretty obvious).
But most importantly, he could’ve survived if he was evacuated earlier
Dave Lee was assumed to be suffering from physical exhaustion and his temperature wasn’t taken.
While his equipment were removed, uniform unbuttoned and ice packs administered, it was noted that he wasn’t given an IV drip and the ice packs were placed wrongly.
If they had not misjudged his condition, his evacuation wouldn’t have been delayed. The COI said that it was possibly the delay in evacuation which led to his heat injury escalating into a heat stroke.
In fact, there were several suggestions to evacuate CFC Dave Lee but they were either ignored or brushed off.
It was also revealed that CFC Dave Lee was taking medication for acute upper respiratory tract infection in the weeks before the fast march.
SAF will press charges in military court should the COI not press criminal charges
In light of what was revealed, something has to be done.
Mindef is currently waiting for the results of the police investigations and the Coroner’s Inquiry. They will await the Attorney General’s Chambers’ decision on whether any persons involved in the case will be persecuted.
If they are not, Mindef assured that they will proceed to press military charges against the involved personnel.
Meanwhile, they are removed from command.
Mother of NSF says harsh punishment must be implemented
Madam Jasmine Yeo, mother of CFC Dave Lee, told reporters that she wasn’t surprised at the findings.
She added that Dave’s last words to her were about his platoon being given informal punishment.
However, she could not understand how evacuation could’ve been delayed for an injured personnel.
She hopes that punishment for personnel responsible would be heavy enough to deter future commanders from doing the same thing.
“They can never imagine the pain a mother has from losing a son whom she had cared for and nurtured since he was born.”
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