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Chief of Army BG Goh: Our army safety system is not broken

It was reported in Straits Times today (6 May) that 900 people have turned up to bid farewell to the late NSF Dave Lee Han Xuan at the Mandai Crematorium yesterday (5 May). Some 200 family members and 700 SAF personnel were present at the NSF’s funeral.

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.

An independent Committee of Inquiry and police investigations have been convened to look into his death.

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen posting on his Facebook page said, “We grieve together with his family and give our deepest condolences. We pray for their comfort and healing.”

And according to ST, Chief of Army BG Goh Si Hou, in his bid to address “rumours and speculation about how CFC Lee had died” wrote a letter to the SAF on Thur (3 May) trying to assure the soldiers. He said that the SAF would find out what happened and fix any shortcomings.

“We will ask honest questions of ourselves… Equally important, trust that our Army will be fair,” he said.

BG Goh said the army was “focused on uncovering lapses and shortcomings in our system, especially so in the prevention and management of heat injuries”.

He said the army would hold a command call next week, to share initial findings and immediate measures it is taking.

Still, he added that the army safety system is not broken, or “we would not be able to take civilian soldiers and train thousands of NSFs and NSmen every year, and still manage the inherent risks of military activities”.

Commander of Army Training BG Liow: All measures were taken for CFC Lee

On Fri (4 May), BG Goh’s subordinate, Commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, BG Kenneth Liow, also came out to defend the SAF. He wrote a letter to the public through ST Forum saying that all measures pertaining to dealing with heat injury of the late NSF Dave Lee “were taken” for him.

There were also “no recorded fatalities” in the past 9 years due to heat injury or heat stroke in the SAF, he added.

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 above said “preliminary investigations” were, of course, undertaken by the SAF without the participation of the Police or COI members.

Dave’s mother grieves

Meanwhile, back at Mandai Crematorium, Ms Jasmine Yeo, the mother of the late NSF Dave Lee said she often imagined what it would be like to give a speech about her son at his wedding.

“(Little) did I know I would be delivering Dave’s (speech) in this manner,” said the aggrieved mother.

In her eulogy, Ms Yeo said that her son’s death calls for the training regime to be reformed. “Heatstroke kills, so put (in place) all possible measures to counter it. It is not to be taken lightly.”

She urged SAF commanders not to forget that “your mission is to train soldiers against enemies and, most importantly, for them to return home safe and sound to their loved ones”.

She told her son’s comrades not to “be sad after today”, but to assure their parents by ensuring their own safety during training, and texting their parents regularly.

Addressing her son, a sorrowful Ms Yeo said, “The moments we’ve shared in your 19 years will remain unforgettable.”

Dave’s platoon mate Ronald Tan spoke highly of him, saying that Dave was one who could be counted on to lift the spirits of others.

Dave’s CO, Major Danny Poh, who commands the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards also gave a eulogy at Dave’s funeral. Major Poh seems to know Dave well even though Dave was only in his battalion for about 3 months and he has several hundred men under him. He also said that Dave “always had his friends’ backs” and had a strong sense of filial piety.

“Family was Dave’s centre of gravity,” Major Poh added.

Indeed, Major Poh must be a pretty good CO to know who is filial to his family and who is not, given that he has so many men under him in such short period of time.