NSF Dave Lee died of heatstroke, no basis to suspect foul play: State Coroner

Corporal First Class Dave Lee Han Xuan collapsed after completing an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp on April 18, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The State Coroner has found that full-time national serviceman (NSF) Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee Han Xuan, 19, died of heatstroke in 2018 and that there was no basis to suspect foul play in the case.

Giving her findings on Wednesday (Jan 27) following an inquiry, State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam also said that he had no medical history which predisposed him to heatstroke.

Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee Han Xuan, 19, who was a guardsman from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, collapsed after completing an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp on April 18 that year.

Investigations later revealed that he was only evacuated to a medical centre about 40 minutes after he was seen to show signs of suffering from heat injury.

This delay in the evacuation was a contributing factor in CFC Lee's death, the court was told in another hearing earlier this year.

He was admitted to Changi General Hospital (CGH) and died 12 days later.

Station Inspector Aliden Hamad, who conducted police investigations into the NSF's death, testified earlier that CFC Lee started the fast march at 6.45am and initially was observed to be walking and running normally.

Station Insp Aliden added that the NSF was, however, seen to be having difficulty walking and speaking after crossing the finish line at 8.25am.

CFC Lee was also observed to be incoherent, breathing heavily and drooling from the mouth.

His load-bearing vest was then taken off and his shirt unbuttoned. Ice packs were applied to his neck, armpit and groin, and water sprayed on his face.

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Captain Tan Baoshu, 33, who was the supervising officer of the fast march, rejected suggestions from other army personnel to evacuate the NSF to the camp's medical centre, saying that the soldier was only suffering from physical exhaustion and would recover after resting.

Capt Tan also rejected a suggestion that CFC Lee be administered an intravenous drip. Station Insp Aliden said that both actions were in breach of army regulations.

Capt Tan instead directed that a ground sheet be used to cover the NSF as his arm was cold.

He ordered CFC Lee to be evacuated only much later and the latter arrived at the camp's medical centre at around 9.05am. Despite receiving treatment at the centre and later at CGH, the NSF's condition deteriorated and he eventually died.

Dr Kenneth Heng, a senior consultant in the emergency department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, testified that evacuating CFC Lee to the medical centre should have been the priority and that a 40-minute delay to do so was "too long". Dr Heng added that a 10-15-minute delay would have been reasonable.

Capt Tan was charged at the State Courts in October 2018 with offences, including causing death by performing 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 the following month.

CFC Lee's mother, Madam Jasmine Yeo, who was present in the coroner's court on Wednesday, told reporters later the lapses were "totally unforgivable".

With tears welling up in her eyes, she said: "Parents who have lost a child will never have any closure. (There) will only be sadness...That is all I can say."

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