SINGAPORE - He thought the "prank" was just meant to scare the full-time national serviceman, so once they put Corporal Kok Yuen Chin down next to the fire station pump well, Staff Sergeant Muhammad Riduan Mohamed Sairi raised his arms and walked away.
"I raised my hands to signal I was stopping and said, 'I don't want to get involved'," said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) serviceman testifying on Friday (June 21) during the ongoing trial where two high-ranking officers linked to Cpl Kok's death are contesting charges against them.
On the night of May 13 last year, Cpl Kok, 22, drowned after he was pushed into the Tuas View Fire Station pump well in a ragging ritual known as "kolam" that was part of activities to mark the completion of his national service.
The officers on trial, Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 38, a lieutenant, and Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 40, a first senior warrant officer, were rota commander and deputy rota commander, respectively, and were in charge of the station that night.
They were each charged with aiding a rash act that caused grievous hurt by illegal omission. The duo had allegedly failed to prevent a group of officers from making Cpl Kok enter the pump well, thereby endangering his life.
On Friday, Staff Sgt Riduan, whose duties included handling administrative matters for NSFs posted to the station, also told the court that he had known before that night that Cpl Kok could not swim.
On May 13 last year, the officers on duty gathered for a cake-cutting ceremony held for Cpl Kok at the fire station's control room. After the celebrations, Staff Sgt Riduan and two other officers lifted the NSF and carried him to the pump well.
"I thought we were going to place him at the kolam and scare him," he said, adding during cross-examination that he left the scene because he thought "everything was going to be over after we put him down".
In closed-circuit television footage of the incident, Staff Sgt Riduan is seen raising both arms and walking away from the group gathered around the pump well. He told the court this happened just as they heard Chong, who was in the nearby control room, call out to them to tell them not to record any video.
Other officers were also seen raising their arms in the footage shown in court, and earlier witnesses had said this was done in response to Chong's instructions.
When asked what he thought could have happened to Cpl Kok at that point at the well, Staff Sgt Riduan said it was possible that the group could have splashed water at him or made him get into the well "voluntarily or involuntarily".
Staff Sgt Riduan said he headed to the second floor of the station to keep some equipment, and found out that something had happened to Cpl Kok only when he walked to the corridor and saw fire engines reversing in the yard. He ran downstairs and joined the rescue operation to retrieve Cpl Kok from the well.
When asked by Nazhan's lawyer, Mr Singa Retnam, whether he considered the act of carrying Cpl Kok towards the pump well as ragging, Staff Sgt Riduan said he did not.
He also said he did not think the others carrying Cpl Kok thought so either, and no one had intended to cause the NSF harm or injury.
The trial continues in September.