Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Operationally Ready National Serviceman, Corporal First Class (National Service) [CFC (NS)] Pang Wei Chong, Aloysius passed away on Wednesday (23 January) at 8.45 pm (SG time) at Waikato Hospital, New Zealand because he was unable to to get out of the way as the gun barrel of a howitzer was lowered.
CFC (NS) Pang was on reservist at the Waiouru Training Area in New Zealand as part of an annual Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) exercise called Exercise Thunder Warrior.
The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a press conference on Tuesday (24 January) that an Armament Technician from the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery, CFC (NS) Pang was carrying out repair works inside the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) with two other SAF personnel on Saturday (19 January) at Waiouru Training Area, New Zealand.
On that tragic day, CFC (NS) Pang was tasked to repair a suspected fault in the gun barrel of a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH). As Pang, another technician and a gun detachment commander were inside the howitzer cabin, the gun barrel was lowered to its standby position.
Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Goh Si Hou told the media that it appears from the initial findings that Aloysius was unable to get out of the way as the gun barrel was lowered.
“He was caught between the end of the gun barrel and the interior of the SSPH and he suffered crush injuries as a result,” he added.
The chief said that when the gun barrel is lowered, the space in the howitzer cabin is reduced. However, he noted that the space is “typically sufficient” for artillery operators as well as technicians to operate.
Colonel (COL) Terry Tan, commander of the Combat Service Support and Command (CSSCOM) said that it takes about nine to 10 seconds for the gun barrel to be fully lowered.
MG Goh then stated that the focus of the investigation would be if there were any lapses in safety procedures by a person who lowered the gun barrel, noting that it was “not appropriate” to go into details until the investigation is completed.
COL Tan stressed that Pang, who held the rank of Corporal First Class (National Service), was “qualified and competent” as an armament technician.
He stated that before an exercise of this scale, NSmen have to undergo a comprehensive training programme. Maintenance crew members like Pang go through refresher training on equipment inspection as well as maintenance tasks such as demonstrations by trainers and hands-on training.
He noted that additional practical sessions on troubleshooting and common faults are also conducted.
“All these are done with emphasis on training safety and precaution as they go about these maintenance tasks. Aloysius has undergone this refresher training and is qualified and competent to do his job in Exercise Thunder Warrior,” COL Tan said.
Chief of Army Medical Officer Colonel Dr Lo Hong Yee said that CFC (NS) Pang was conscious after the incident.
He was treated on site by an SAF doctor and his team, before being evacuated to Waikato Hospital, a regional trauma centre where he underwent a number of surgeries to treat his injuries.
Dr Teo Li Tserng, Chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, was flown in to assist the New Zealand medical team tending to CFC (NS) Pang.
Dr Teo said that after the first two operations, CFC (NS) Pang’s condition had stabilised. He was awake and breathe by his own, as well as communicating with his mother.
However, COL Lo said that Dr Teo and the New Zealand doctors were already expecting complications, saying, “You cannot have a severely injured patient and not expect. So they were already expecting complications. They just didn’t know when it will set in.”
Despite surgical attempts to repair damaged organs and putting him on artificial life support, CFC (NS) Pang succumbed to the injuries and passed away.
The SAF will be making arrangements to bring the body of the late CFC (NS) Pang back to Singapore.
However, it was reported that New Zealand authorities are awaiting the green light from the actor’s family to conduct a post-mortem on his body.
Once Pang’s family gives their consent, a two-hour long on-site post-mortem will be conducted, during which the technician will assist the pathologist with the procedure.
Secretary of the Armed Forces Council and director of manpower Lee Chung Wei said that the SAF “follows the principles” of the civil courts as well as the Work Injury Compensation Act, when asked about compensation for Pang’s family.
He said, “In fact, in many cases, we are more generous than that. But due to confidential reasons, we do not speak about the specific compensation for the families. This is something we will only speak to the families about.”
MINDEF also announced that an independent Committee of Inquiry will be assembled to investigate the circumstances which led to the accident.
A netizen counted that at least 8 Singaporeans died in past 1.5 years while serving their nation.
- Jan 23, 2019: CFC (NS) Aloysius Pang, died from injuries sustained during an ICT training in New Zealand
- Nov 3, 2018: Corporal First Class Liu Kai, 22, died at the Jalan Murai training grounds when an armored infantry fighting vehicle reversed into his jeep.
- Sep 28, 2018: An NSF was found hanging from a rope in his office in Sembawang Air Base.
- Sep 9, 2018: A 23-year-old police NSF died a week after he was found with a gunshot wound to his head.
- Jul 28, 2018: A SAF regular serviceman was found hanging from a rope in his bunk in Nee Soon Camp.
- May 13, 2018: SCDF NSF Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, died in a ragging incident.
- Apr 30, 2018: CFC Dave Lee, 19, succumbed to his injuries after being hospitalized for heatstroke. His Officer in Command was charged in court.
- Sep 15, 2017: 3SG Gavin Chan, 21, died in a vehicular mishap at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Australia.
Following CFC (NS) Pang’s death, the public are calling for the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to take responsibility of his death.
Some also went further by revealing the the harsh reality of SAF training.
As such, Facebook user Shane Sim, who said to have deployed to New Zealand himself, said that although SAF told and briefed officers about safety, but “intrinsically they instilled fear for failing to meet expectations or positive reinforcement if you meet expectations. Everybody is pressured to break safety procedures for the sake of meeting expectations.”
The announcement of his death triggered an outpouring of grief from his friends, family, and fans. His girlfriend, Jayley Woo also took to social media to express her grief.
“My world is no more,” she wrote.