NSF's death in Australia

Father urges trio involved 'to think positive'

Family and friends remember 3SG Gavin as a responsible man and role model to siblings

Mr Desmond Chan and Madam Lim Teck Kheng at the wake for their son Gavin (above) yesterday.
Mr Desmond Chan and Madam Lim Teck Kheng at the wake for their son Gavin yesterday.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Mr Desmond Chan and Madam Lim Teck Kheng at the wake for their son Gavin (above) yesterday.
3rd Sergeant (3SG) Gavin Chan Hiang Cheng

When 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Gavin Chan Hiang Cheng arrived in Australia for Exercise Wallaby on Sept 2, he sent his parents a text, as he always did when booking into camp.

"We were not worried, because we knew that he was very independent," said his father Desmond Chan, 49, a cargo sales manager.

It was to be the last message that his parents received from him.

Last Friday, Mr Chan learnt that his son, a 21-year-old full-time national serviceman, had been involved in an incident during the annual overseas drill.

3SG Chan had been guiding a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle out of difficult terrain that day, when it landed on its side.

The oldest of four siblings was found unconscious next to the vehicle. The driver and the other two passengers were unhurt.

3SG Chan was evacuated via helicopter and transferred to Rockhampton Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at 10.36pm, Singapore time.

Mr Chan and his family arrived in Australia the next morning, and returned to Singapore with 3SG Chan's body on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at his son's wake yesterday, Mr Chan said he wants to tell the three other servicemen involved in the accident that his family is doing all right.

"I want the three of them to go ahead, think positive, don't feel bad. Life still moves on," he said.

Mr Chan added that his son was a role model to his younger siblings, whom he loved.

He was also a helpful man who contributed his efforts to raise funds for organisations like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"Gavin had been a very good son of mine, he never gave us any problems, didn't demand anything, and just celebrated his 21st birthday," said Madam Lim Teck Kheng, 50, 3SG Chan's mother.

"We wanted to hold a party and buy him dinner, but he refused. He just wanted a chocolate cake," she added. He flew to Australia days after his birthday on Aug 29.

3SG Chan, who attended Serangoon Junior College, was considering going abroad to study after national service.

Mr Chan and his wife thanked the Singapore Armed Forces for arranging for the family to travel to Australia following the incident, which happened at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland.

Training in the area resumed on Sunday, after a safety pause for investigations into the incident.

3SG Chan will be accorded the honours of a military funeral, and the cremation will be at Mandai Crematorium on Saturday.

The Defence Ministry is exploring means to have his unit return to Singapore, for them to pay their respects.

Around 70 people, including 3SG Chan's relatives and friends, who remember him as a responsible person, attended his wake in Pasir Ris yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is an MP for Pasir Ris- Punggol GRC, also turned up to pay his respects. Mr Zainal Sapari, DPM Teo's Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC colleague, was present as well.

Asked how the family was coping, Mr Chan said: "To lose a son is a very, very painful feeling. To lose a good son, I can't swallow it."

Choking up, he added: "(Gavin) was a good son... no words can describe how we are feeling now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline 'Father urges trio involved 'to think positive''. Print Edition | Subscribe