Image from The Singapore Army facebook

MINDEF sends condolences to family of Guardsman who passed away due to heat injury

Ministry of Defence (Mindef) posted its condolences to the family of a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Full-time National Serviceman, Private (PTE) Lee Han Xuan Dave, 19, a Guardsman from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, who passed away on Monday (30 April) at 5.32 pm at Changi General Hospital (CGH).

Mindef stated that PTE Lee was found to display signs of heat injury at about 08.35 am on 18 Apr 2018, noting that he had just completed an 8km fast march in Bedok Camp.

Mindef said that a SAF medic attended to PTE Lee immediately to bring down his core temperature and he was evacuated to the camp’s Medical Centre where body cooling measures and treatment were continued by the SAF medical team.

At 09.50 am, PTE Lee arrived at Changi General Hospital (CGH), where he was warded in the Intensive Care Unit since 18 Apr 2018.

Unfortunately, his condition did not improve in the ICU and worsened during the hospitalisation.

PTE Lee was pronounced dead at 5.32 pm on 30 Apr 2018 at CGH.

“The Ministry of Defence and the SAF extend their deepest condolences to the family of the late serviceman and are assisting the family in this time of grief,” Mindef noted.

PTE Lee’s parents, Jasmine Yeo and Dennis Lee, wrote a post on their Facebook accounts regarding her son’s death, writing, “Dave had completed his final journey with us @1732 today and now he is on his way to create miracles to others! We are proud of him and hope more people will be able to benefit from his generosity!”

Allegations surrounding circumstances of PTE Lee’s heat injury surfaces

PTE Lee’s aunt, Cecilia Yeo, has also shared on her facebook, an alleged witness account from one of the soldiers at 1 Guards. The original Facebook post has been removed on Monday night and the reddit post also had its content deleted.

Ms Yeo wrote, “…while the truth can’t bring my nephew back, he deserves the truth to be told. I am sharing this in pain but we demand full explanation from SAF to the public, who trustingly sent their children to serve the nation. I hope you share our pain and support that SAF must release full investigation and identity of all culprits to the public.”

The post wrote that the night before the 8 km fast march, the entire recce platoon was turned out after lights out by their sergeants. The writer wrote, “(the sergeants) forcing us to bear crawl to the SOC grounds at Bedok camp, doing their usual tekan of making us roll in the sand and have water poured on us, to satisfy their own sadistic pleasure.”

It goes on to claim that the soldiers did not have the adequate seven hours of rest mandated by the training safety regulation required for the fast march the next day, as a result of the turn out.

The soldier then recalled that during the fast march, PTE Lee struggled to complete his fast march and was dragged by senior commanders, forcing him to finish the fast march even though he was showing signs of extreme physical exhaustion. It was alleged that PTE Lee collapsed after collecting his timing chip at the company line.

It was also claimed that ground commanders did not follow the proper protocol for a soldier in heat exhaustion. Such as PTE Lee’s cloths were not removed, no ice pack were placed at the vital heat dissipation points in his body, and the medic was even blurred, not knowing what to do.

The soldier recalled that the safety officer was nowhere to be found during this whole time and the commanders left his body under the hot sun instead of bringing it to a shaded area, taking them almost 30 minutes to an hour before they even stretched him away to the medical center before he was even transported to a hospital using the military ambulance.

Following PTE Lee’s unnatural death, the Armed Forces Council will convene an independent Committee of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. This is similar to how MINDEF handled the death of NSF PTE Dominique Lee Sarron Lee died after an allergic reaction to the smoke grenades that were used. Six grenades were thrown instead of the maximum two as specified in the training safety regulation.