Ministry of Defence (Mindef) announced on Wednesday (2 May) that the death of late full-time national serviceman Dave Lee Han Xuan will be independently investigated by the Police and a Committee of Inquiry (COI) has been convened by the Armed Forces Council to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident.
Full-time National Serviceman, Private (PTE) Lee Han Xuan Dave, 19, a Guardsman from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, passed away on Monday (30 April) at 5.32 pm at Changi General Hospital (CGH) where he was warded for 18 days since 18 April after showing signs of heat injury following an 8 kilometres fast march.
It noted that the COI will be chaired by a Cluster Superintendent from the Ministry of Education, with a medical specialist from the public healthcare sector as one of its members. The Coroner’s Inquiry may be held based on the outcome of the Police investigation.
Mindef stressed that the COI has full powers and access to information and personnel to investigate the circumstances leading to the death, determine the contributory factors and make recommendations to rectify any lapses uncovered.
“Recommendations from previous COIs have been implemented to improve the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)’s safety systems and processes. This includes the setting up of the External Review Panel on SAF Safety (ERPSS), consisting of prominent safety experts and professionals from outside the SAF to advise the SAF on its safety management system, enhance the robustness of safety-related policies and promulgate best practices across the Services,” it said.
The Army had also declared a safety timeout for all training on 30 April, noting that the training resumed on Wednesday following a review of training and safety management plans to ensure that all appropriate safety measures are in place.
Mindef stressed that the Army is committed to ensure that the soldiers train realistically and safely.
The Army’s Chief of Staff – General Staff, Brigadier-General Siew Kum Wong, said on Tuesday night that a COI, headed by a senior civil servant from outside Mindef and the SAF, would be convened to investigate the circumstances leading to Corporal Lee’s death.
He also said that the committee will also determine the contributory factors and make recommendations to rectify any lapses or inadequacies uncovered.
In the Singapore Army Facebook page, he delivered his condolences.
BG Siew also said that in recognition of PTE Lee’s service, the 19-year-old man was accorded posthumous recognition of the rank of Corporal First Class (CFC) noting that CFC Lee will also be awarded the Guards and RECON military tabs, and the Guards beret he was training hard for.
BG Siew stressed that the COI has full powers and access to information and personnel to investigate the circumstances leading to death, determine the contributory factors, and make recommendations to rectify any lapses or inadequacies uncovered. Should there be training safety violations, the personnel responsible will be held accountable.
CFC 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 soldier wrote on the deleted post that all the soldiers did not have adequate rest the night before the march, noting that the ground commanders did not follow the proper protocol for a soldier in heat exhaustion.
Parents of CFC Lee spoke to the media for the first time since their son passed away due to heat stroke at Bedok camp in a brief interview arranged by Mindef at the wake in Jurong East.
His parents stated that it was too early to comment on the incident. In the interview, CFC Lee’s mother, Mrs Jasmine Yeo, responded to the soldier post, saying, “Let’s leave it for now… (After the funeral), we will then work on that.”
Ms Yeo said that she would like to share only about CFC Dave at that moment, saying, “He is really a very good boy. He is always very respectful. He would put in effort to help family whenever he can. And of course, he would try his best to achieve whatever task that he was given.”
Asked about the most memorable memory with her son, Mrs Yeo said that it was his “hugs and kisses” before he booked in and when he returned home. She also said that, for a mother, it was also the way they held each other’s hand whenever they go shopping.
Another thing is that the family had decided to do the organ donations on Friday. However, due to some reasons, they were only able to donate CFC Lee’s cornea, saying, “We really wish that a person who receive it will continue to see the world.”