Two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen will be court-martialled on Wed (31 Jul) in connection to the late actor Aloysius Pang’s death in New Zealand in Jan this year, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) in a statement.
Mindef today said that Military Expert 2 (ME2) Ivan Teo, 35, will be charged for “disobedience of general orders under section 21 of the SAF Act”, in addition to two charges “for causing death by negligent act under section 304A(b) of the Penal Code”.
Third Sergeant (National Service) [3SG(NS)] Hubert Wah, 31, will face one charge for “causing death by rash act under section 304A(a) of the Penal Code”, and another for “causing death by negligent act under section 304A(b) of the Penal Code”.
Should ME2 Teo be found guilty of the charges, he may be imprisoned for up to two years as a serviceman convicted for disobedience of general orders, and may serve a jail term of up to two years or a fine or both for causing death by negligent act.
3SG(NS) Wah, if found guilty of his charges, may face an imprisonment term of up to five years or a fine or both for causing death by rash act, and a similar term as ME2 Teo for causing death by negligent act.
The military court martial is presided over by a serving State Courts judge.
Mindef added that the Singapore Police Force does not have jurisdiction to conduct investigations into Corporal First Class (NS) Pang’s death, as his death took place overseas in New Zealand.
“Investigations into his death were conducted by the SAF’s Special Investigation Branch (SIB), and the Chief Military Prosecutor has decided to prosecute the two SAF servicemen based on the investigation findings of the SIB,” said Mindef.
CFC(NS) Pang succumbed to serious injuries at Waikato Hospital on 23 Jan this year, which he had sustained after carrying out repair works inside the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) in the Waiouru Training Area.
COI findings revealed poor communication, gun commander and technician “acting irrationally” leading to grave safety lapses: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen
Previously, a Committee of Inquiry (COI) was convened by the Armed Forces Council two days after CFC(NS) Pang’s death to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of his death.
“For this COI, a judge nominated by the State Court will be Chairman and its other members include a consultant medical specialist, a member of the External Review Panel on SAF Safety (ERPSS), a member of the Workplace Safety and Health Council, and a senior-ranked National Serviceman,” said SAF in a statement.
“In a bid to assure the public that the investigations will be conducted as fairly and as independently as possible, SAF stressed that “None of the COI members work within MINDEF or are SAF regulars,” SAF added.
In a ministerial statement in Parliament in May, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed the findings of the COI, which stated that CFC(NS) Pang was inside the SSPH with a gun detachment commander, a Third Sergeant national serviceman, as well as a technician who is ranked Military Expert 2 and a regular serviceman.
Findings of the COI indicated that CFC(NS) Pang was reportedly standing in the path of the moving barrel prior to the barrel being lowered, and did not move to a safe position despite being warned that the barrel was going to be lowered to a standby position.
The regular technician had also allegedly failed to make sure that Pang moved to a safe position despite knowing that the barrel would be lowered. In addition, the gun commander had moved the barrel even after being aware that CFC(NS) Pang was not in a safe position, a violation of the SSPH safety regulations.
Both the gun commander and regular technician were also found to have acted “irrationally” in failing to press the emergency stop buttons to stop the barrel movement.
Poor communication and a lack of clarity, as well as miscommunication between the gun and maintenance crew, according to the COI, were the primary factors that had led to the grave safety lapses, which in turn had caused the incident.
Dr Ng, however, noted that CFC(NS) Pang was diligent and careful in carrying out his work as an NSman during his reservist training in New Zealand, highlighting that he had “attended several courses during his full-time national service” and “graduating with an overall “A” grade from the armament basic technician training (turret)”.
“Last February, he attended a maintenance vocational training course during his sixth in-camp training in preparation for the overseas exercise,” said the Defence Minister.
Recounting the accounts made by CFC(NS) Pang’s NS peers, Dr Ng added that CFC(NS) Pang was “very helpful” and professional in carrying out his tasks, and “was seen by his superiors as someone who would not cut safety corners when working”.