On Wed (2 May), Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced that the death of late full-time national serviceman Dave Lee Han Xuan will be independently investigated by the Police as well as a Committee of Inquiry (COI). The COI will be chaired by a senior civil servant from the Ministry of Education, with a medical specialist from the public healthcare sector as one of its members. The Public Coroner's Inquiry may be held based on the outcome of the Police investigation.
However, before the commencement of police investigation as well as the inquiry by independent COI, SAF has quickly come out to say that all measures pertaining to dealing with heat injury of the late NSF Dave Lee "were taken" for him.
Writing to the public through ST Forum today ('Achieving zero fatalities in SAF training', 4 May), the Commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, Brigadier-General Kenneth Liow said that SAF does seek to achieve zero fatalities for NSFs.
"The SAF does indeed seek to achieve zero fatalities and will continually put in place safety systems to achieve this," BG Liow wrote and added that there were "no recorded fatalities" in the past 9 years due to heat injury or heat stroke.
In his letter, BG Liow said preliminary investigations did show that mandatory water parades before, during and after the training activity, as well as temperature-taking before the training, were taken for NSF Dave Lee's case. He also added that temperature recordings were shown to be normal prior to the training activity.
In addition, the following measures were also taken for the late NSF's case:
- Commanders and soldiers were reminded to look out for signs of heat injury during training.
- On-site cooling measures were taken for NSF Dave Lee, including the removal of clothes and application of ice water to him when he was affected by heat injury.
- Evaporative body cooling unit was used for him at the SAF medical centre.
- He was evacuated to Changi General Hospital (CGH).
"All these measures were taken for CFC Lee," BG Liow wrote. "We are deeply saddened that despite this, his condition did not improve."
"The SAF will spare no effort in improving our systems to achieve zero fatalities," he proclaimed on behalf of SAF.
Of course, the above said "preliminary investigations" were undertaken by SAF without the participation of the Police or COI members.
Mother: Dave is really a very good boy
Dave passed away on Mon (30 Apr) at CGH where he was warded for 18 days since 18 Apr, after showing signs of heat stroke following an 8 km fast march. SAF announced that in recognition of Dave's service, he was accorded posthumous recognition of the rank of Corporal First Class together with the Guards and RECON military tabs, and the Guards beret.
In response to Dave's death, his aunt Cecilia Yeo, has also shared on her facebook an alleged witness account from one of the soldiers at Dave's unit.
The soldier alleged that all the NSFs did not have adequate rest the night before the march and that the ground commanders did not follow the proper protocol to treat Dave when he fell from heat exhaustion. The soldier's original posting, however, has already been deleted from Facebook.
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."
Dave's mother told the reporters when she was interviewed, "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."
Dave's parents donated his cornea, saying, "We really wish that a person who receive it will continue to see the world."
It's not known why SAF quickly released its preliminary findings to the public just days after Dave passed away, even before the Police or COI commence their inquiry.