MINDEF expresses deep condolences to family of late NSF Dave Lee; assures SAF will improve its safety systems to “achieve zero training fatalities”

"Safety of our soldiers is a core value and should never be compromised during training."

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has expressed its deep condolences to the family of full-time national serviceman (NSF) Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee Han Xuan following his death back in 2018.

“Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee was an exemplary soldier who served with commitment. His passing is a sad loss to his family and to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF),” said MINDEF in a Facebook post on Thursday (28 Jan).

CFC Lee, who was 19 when he died, collapsed after completing an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp on 18 April 2018. He spent more than a week in intensive care at Changi General Hospital before succumbing to his injuries on 30 April.

On Tuesday (27 Jan), the State Coroner confirmed his passing due to heatstroke, and that there was no basis to suspect foul play in the case, as reported by The Straits Times (ST).

SAF Captain (CPT) Tan Baoshu, who supervised the fast march, failed to evacuate CFC Lee in a timely manner after noticing heat injuries in his subordinate. CPT Tan also dismissed the administration of necessary treatment to CFC Lee at that time, saying that CFC Lee was merely suffering from physical exhaustion and that he would recover after resting.

Station Inspector Aliden Hamad, who conducted police investigations into CFC Lee’s death, had testified earlier saying that the actions of CPT Tan were in breach of army regulations.

CPT Tan was charged at the State Courts in October 2018 under Section 304A(a) of the Penal Code for causing the death of CFC Dave Lee by a rash act.

He was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in January last year after he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He died a month later – on 13 February 2020.

According to MINDEF, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) had referred six other servicemen to the Ministry for investigation into potential breaches of military law.

“On completion of investigations by the SAF’s Special Investigation Branch, the six servicemen were charged in military court on 20 February 2020. All six servicemen pleaded guilty and have been convicted and sentenced by the Subordinate Military Court. They are not fit for and have been removed from positions of command,” it added.

SAF regrets that commanders in this incident did not perform their duties; will continue to improve its safety systems to “achieve zero training fatalities”

In its Facebook post, MINDEF stated that the SAF “regrets that commanders in this incident did not perform their duties to ensure the well-being of soldiers under their care”.

“Safety of our soldiers is a core value and should never be compromised during training. Commanders who breached training and discipline regulations in this incident failed in their duties and have been dealt with accordingly,” it stressed.

The Ministry went on to say that since the incident that befell CFC Lee, the SAF has enhanced its heat injury management and prevention protocols, which are in line with the recommendations from the Committee of Inquiry, the External Review Panel on SAF Safety, and External Review Panel on Heat Injury Management.

“The safety system improvements include the simplified protocol for immediate evacuation, additional methods to cool servicemen during training, the training of commanders and soldiers to recognise the signs and symptoms of heat injuries, and the emphasis on open reporting, as noted by the Coroner,” it elaborated.

MINDEF concluded its post saying that the SAF will “continually strive to improve” its safety systems to “achieve zero training fatalities” as it trains Singaporean soldiers to defend the country against all threats.

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