SINGAPORE - An army captain in charge of an 8km fast march after which a 19-year-old soldier died of heatstroke was on Wednesday (Oct 31) charged with causing the death by performing a rash act, including failing to evacuate the victim in a timely manner.
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) captain Tan Baoshu, 30, is also accused of disallowing the necessary treatment which full-time national serviceman Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee needed after collapsing following the march in the morning of April 18 at Bedok Camp. CFC Lee died on April 30, around two weeks after he was admitted to Changi General Hospital.
Tan, who was then the Officer Commanding of Support Company, 1st Guards Battalion, was also the supervising officer of the 8km fast march that day. He is the first person to be charged over the incident involving CFC Lee’s death.
Police said in a statement on Wednesday that six other SAF servicemen who were involved in the incident have been referred to the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) for investigations. Two are regular servicemen, while four are national servicemen.
Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Mindef said that Tan has been suspended from service pending the outcome of court proceedings. Tan is represented by lawyer Eunice Chua and is now out on bail of $10,000. He will be back in court on Nov 28. If convicted of causing CFC Lee’s death by performing a rash act, he can be jailed for up to five years and fined.
Mindef issued a statement on Wednesday saying it will defer its internal proceedings against the six servicemen until after the conclusion of the criminal proceedings against Tan, so as to prevent any prejudice arising from parallel proceedings.
A Committee of Inquiry (COI) was convened by the Armed Forces Council on May 2 to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident, while the police also conducted independent investigations.
Mindef said: “SAF personnel who conduct unauthorised activities, or who wilfully or negligently fail to comply with training safety regulations, will be severely dealt with and prosecuted under military law... or under criminal law before the civil courts.”
In August, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament that relevant people involved in the incident have been removed from command and could face criminal charge or military prosecution.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has, in the past, referred servicemen to the SAF to be prosecuted under military law when it found insufficient grounds for prosecution in the criminal courts.
In 2012, after Private Dominique Sarron Lee Rui Feng died due to an allergic reaction following the use of smoke grenades in training, the AGC decided not to prosecute anyone, as the coroner found that the reaction was unlikely to have been predicted, among other findings.
However, two SAF officers involved were charged under military law in November 2013 for breaching safety regulations following the AGC’s decision not to prosecute.
In 2006, the AGC also referred a case where four instructors were involved in a drowning incident to Mindef for “action under military law”. Second Sergeant Ong Jia Hui died on June 15, 2005, after he sank 9m to the bottom of the sea in the waters off Changi Naval Base while on a military exercise.
The AGC found no legal grounds for proceeding against the four servicemen on criminal charges. Mindef said it would conduct further investigations before deciding if the soldiers will face a court martial.
Other SAF servicemen have been punished in the civilian criminal courts.
In another incident where a lance corporal was killed when a truck reversed into him in 2011, the truck’s driver was charged in the criminal courts for causing death by negligent act and was fined $3,000.
A master sergeant was sentenced to six months’ jail in 2015 for ordering a full-time national serviceman (NSF) to drive a jeep despite having no licence or training, and trying to cover up the incident that led to a soldier’s death.
NSF Tan Mou Sheng, 20, was killed when the jeep overturned during an exercise in May 2012.