An officer from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was charged in court on Friday (25 October) for causing the death of full-time national serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai last year.
Captain Ong Lin Jie, 28, was charged with one count of doing a rash act causing death.
Apart from him, five other individuals were also charged with wrongful communication of information under the Official Secrets Act for spreading photos of the incident.
22-year-old CFC Liu died on 3 November 2018 at the Jalan Murai training grounds after a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle that was moving away from simulated enemy fire reversed into the Land Rover that the full-time national serviceman was driving.
Ong, who was the officer commanding the Land Rover, had apparently failed to maintain a safe distance of 30m between the vehicle and the Bionix. Due to this, the Bionix continued reversing and mounted the driver’s side of the Land Rover, causing the death of CFC Liu, court documents revealed.
If Ong is found guilty, he could be jailed for up to five years or fined, or both. He will return in court on 21 November.
Separately, five other people were also charged for capturing pictures of the accident and leaking it online. The photo shows a Bionix vehicle on top of a Land Rover, with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and an ambulance seen in the background.
Muhammad Arif Azman and Mohamad Haikal Mohamad Zainal Abiddin captured photographs of the accident and circulated them through WhatsApp. Both the men were serving their national service with the SCDF and were at the scene of the incident.
“(They) were at the scene where they took photographs of the incident and disseminated them via WhatsApp,” said the police.
22-year-old Arif faces two counts – one for sending two pictures of the accidents to 23 other people in a WhatsApp chat group, and the second for not listening to his captain’s order to delete the photographs from his phone.
As for 20-year-old Haikal, he faces three charges. The first for sending five pictures of the incident to the group chat, and two more charges for sending the pictures to two people separately on WhatsApp.
Upon receiving the photos taken by Arif and Haikal, three other servicemen shared them without any permission, despite knowing that the pictures were sensitive official information. These individuals are Thng Yu Xuan, Brandon Tan Jien Jet and Muhammad Zaki Haji Mokhtar.
Tan was charged for sending two photographs to six individuals, Thng was charged for sending four pictures to five others and Zaki was charged for sending two photographs to another person. All three of them disseminated the photos via WhatsApp.
If convicted, five of them can be sentenced to jail for up to two years and fined up to S$2,000. Haikal will be back in court on 22 November, whereas Arif, Tan Thng and Zaki have voiced out their plan to plead guilty.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on 11 February that the Bionix driver involved in the accident continued reversing the vehicle despite repeated commands to stop. Dr Ng revealed that this information came to light after a Committee of Inquiry (COI) found this in their investigation into the death of CFC Liu.
“The COI noted that the rear guide had repeatedly given the order for the driver to stop reversing through the intercom via his helmet. The COI noted that the intercom system was working earlier in the exercise. They have asked for an independent technical assessment report on whether the intercom system was working properly all the time,” said Dr Ng.
Following COI’s finding, a number of safety measures were implemented to all Bionix vehicles in SAF’s training fleet.
For instance, the Bionix training fleet will be fitted with a rear-view camera system in phases.The system provides a live video feed of the vehicle’s rear to enhance the operator’s situational awareness while in the vehicle during training and operations.
It is capable of operating in a low-light environment, with the video displayed on the 6.5-inch-wide display panel mounted in the operator’s compartment.
Besides that, more experienced and regular trainers were required to be on the ground to supervise and train servicemen. They will no longer be in any Land Rover or other “soft skin” vehicles, instead will be required to be in the combat vehicles with the trainees during training, said Dr Ng.