Details About Aloysius Pang’s Case Revealed & It Was Actually Preventable

Facebook (Aloysius 冯伟衷) / Mindef

Aloysius Pang’s death while serving his country has sent massive shockwaves through Singapore.

Here’s a flashback in case you need some refreshing.

Back then, a Committee Of Inquiry (COI) was convened to investigate the incident and only bits and pieces of the incident was shared to Singaporean.

And now, the COI is ready to reveal it all to the public.

What Exactly Happened

Pang was in New Zealand for a live-firing exercise back in Jan 2019.

According to the COI, he was sent to conduct “corrective maintenance related to the accuracy of the gun”.

When he reported back that he can’t do it, a regular technician was sent to help him.

They had to change a control card on the motor drive control unit – ammunition handling system box within the gun.

Safe Positions

Image: Mindef

The regular technician stood in one of the designated “safe” positions to loosen the box’s screws.

Pang was doing the same on the other side. The only problem? He wasn’t in a “safe” position.

Even after the regular technician had told Pang that the barrel was going to be moved and asked for him to move to a standby position, Pang said that it was fine.

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The gun commander claimed to have checked if the path was clear and saw Pang in the danger zone.

However, he decided to carry on, assuming that Pang has enough time to move away.

So he shouted, “Standby, clear away”, and lowered the barrel.

Too Late

Pang was seen continuously removing the screws on the box even when the barrel was lowered.

As it got closer, the two personnel saw Pang starting to make “evasive movements”.

However, he could not get out of the way in time and was crushed between the flick rammer and the slew ring.

Personnel Panicked

The regular technician had spoken to Pang in a mix of Mandarin and English. When asked if there were any communication issues between both servicemen, Dr Ng said there were no indicators showing that there was an issue with the language use.

It was added that the urgency of maintenance work contributed to the incident.

However, there was one point of contention within the entire inquiry: Pang could’ve escaped from death.

The gun commander, as well as the regular technician, panicked after seeing Pang unable to get out of the way.

The gun commander had tried to stop the barrel via the main control while the technician pushed against the barrel with his own hands.

But if they had activated the red emergency buttons near them, the barrel would have stopped lowering.

In Conclusion:

  • There was no mechanical fault with the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) gun
  • The team was rushing to complete the job and disregard safety protocols
  • Post-incident care was good enough but there’s room for improvement
  • The personnel working on the gun were given enough training to conduct maintenance on the gun
  • The incident could have been prevented if the soldiers followed the proper safety protocols put in place by the SAF
  • Whether other soldiers will be charged, will depend on the SAF Special Investigations Branch’s report.

Aftermath

So what happens now?

Every soldier who operates the SSPH will have to practise the emergency stop button drills before operating the vehicle.

Super obvious markings were put up within the vehicle to indicate “safe” and potentially “unsafe” areas.

Technicians have to run through a nine-step drill before any maintenance training and tasks.

And trainers are now on high alert to eliminate any “shortcuts” their trainees attempt to do in their training, so as to eliminate bad habits.

In addition, the SAF will try to engage their soldiers on why the safety manual is written this way, and rewrite the manual should there be better ways to do things.

But at the end of the day, it’s all up to individuals like you and me, to decide if that five minutes of time is worth your entire life.