Death of NSF

SAF vehicle commander charged over fatal accident

Corporal First Class Liu Kai died after a Bionix reversed and mounted the driver's side of his Land Rover.
Regular serviceman Ong Lin Jie, 28, a captain, was charged with doing a rash act causing death. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Regular serviceman Ong Lin Jie, 28, a captain, was charged with doing a rash act causing death. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Corporal First Class Liu Kai died after a Bionix reversed and mounted the driver’s side of his Land Rover.

Captain allegedly failed to ensure safety distance of 30m between Land Rover and Bionix during exercise

A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer was charged yesterday in relation to the death last year of full-time national serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai, who was driving a Land Rover commanded by him.

Regular serviceman Ong Lin Jie, 28, a captain, was charged with doing a rash act causing death.

Court documents said he had allegedly failed to keep a safety distance of 30m between the Land Rover and a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle, which had reversed and mounted the driver's side of the Land Rover during a training exercise at the Murai Urban Training Facility on Nov 3.

Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu, 22, a transport operator from SAF's Transport Hub West, died after the Land Rover he was driving was mounted by the Bionix despite repeated commands by the rear guide to stop the Bionix.

If convicted, Ong could be jailed for up to five years, fined, or both.

Preliminary findings on CFC Liu's death shared by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament in February showed that the Bionix did not stop reversing despite repeated commands for its driver to do so. It stopped only after mounting the driver's side of the Land Rover.

Dr Ng said an independent Committee of Inquiry (COI) formed to look into the circumstances of the incident, as well as the police, were looking into whether the communications equipment used by the Bionix crew was working properly at the time.

 
 
 

CFC Liu was then driving Ong from the Active Unit Training Centre, as the latter was assigned to evaluate the exercise troops. The 42nd Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment (42 SAR) was conducting a two-sided company mission exercise there.

During the exercise, the Bionix stopped after it spotted several vehicles involved in the exercise passing a junction ahead of it, according to the preliminary findings of the COI.

The Land Rover, which was following the Bionix to assess the crew's performance in the exercise, stopped some distance behind it.

Ong then allegedly instructed CFC Liu to overtake the Bionix, and as the latter moved forward slowly, he heard shots fired as part of the exercise. CFC Liu then stopped the Land Rover at a maximum distance of 19.8m from the Bionix.

This was short of the 30m safe distance stated in the training safety regulations, Dr Ng said then, adding that the COI noted that it was the responsibility of the Land Rover's vehicle commander to ensure the safety distance.

The case had cast the spotlight on deaths in the SAF. It was the third of four training-related deaths in the SAF since September 2017.

The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that Ong has been suspended from service, pending the outcome of the court proceedings.

It is also conducting its own internal investigation to determine if there have been breaches of military law by other individuals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2019, with the headline 'SAF vehicle commander charged over fatal accident'. Print Edition | Subscribe