Tributes poured in for actor Aloysius Pang last night as news broke of his death four days after he was seriously injured in a military exercise in New Zealand last Saturday.
Corporal First Class (NS) Pang, an armament technician from the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery, was 28. Even before the Ministry of Defence issued a statement last night confirming his death, celebrities on social media had changed their profile pictures to black and white.
Later, when his death was confirmed, fellow actor Shane Pow wrote on Instagram: "It wasn't enough being brothers with you this life. Let's be brothers again next life. I love you my big brother."
Mediacorp actor Desmond Tan commented on Mr Pang's Instagram account, writing: "Bro, you are an important chapter in all our lives. Nothing is wrong, just that you went ahead of us like you always do as a human and actor. We will see you in future."
Actress Carrie Wong said: "I always say to you, 'Why is it you again?' but really, I want to say, it was my good fortune to have worked with you so many times. Thank you for always bringing sunshine to others. Always remember you. I'll see you next time."
Mr Pang started as a child actor at the age of nine and was due to start shooting Channel 8 romantic drama My One In A Million next month.
In a statement reported by Channel NewsAsia, Mediacorp said: "He was a highly capable actor who had grown in skill and versatility but remained humble, diligent and ever willing to help others."
It added: "He will always be remembered for his good-heartedness, his sincere, unaffected earnestness and his professionalism. He showed respect to everyone, especially his elders."
The operationally ready national serviceman died after he was injured in his chest and abdominal areas while carrying out repair works inside a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) self-propelled howitzer during an annual live-firing exercise called Thunder Warrior.
He underwent abdominal surgery that evening, with a planned follow-up surgery completed on Monday .
However, CFC Pang's condition worsened and he required additional surgery, which was completed on Tuesday just before midnight, said Mindef yesterday.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had given an update earlier yesterday on his condition, saying it was "very serious" and that he needed artificial support for his lungs, kidneys and heart.
Surgeons and staff at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, where CFC Pang was warded in the intensive care unit, were doing all they could to keep up the support and improve his condition, wrote Dr Ng in his Facebook post.
In a later statement, Mindef said that he was injured when the howitzer's gun barrel was lowered, and died at 8.45pm yesterday despite surgical attempts to repair damaged organs and after putting him on artificial life support.
Chinese-language evening newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported yesterday that Mr Pang had suffered blunt-force trauma.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital's chief of trauma and acute care surgery Teo Li Tserng had been working with the New Zealand medical team to provide the best care for CFC Pang since arriving on Tuesday morning, added Mindef.
Mr Pang's parents, as well as his two elder brothers, had also flown to Hamilton, accompanied by SAF family liaison officers.
While an investigation into the cause of the incident is ongoing, no further details were available about the safety procedures in place when doing repair work on the howitzer.
Repair and maintenance work on the howitzer, which entered service in 2003, is usually done in teams and supervised by a commander, said a former serviceman familiar with the platform. In combat, it is operated by a crew of four.
The Singapore self-propelled howitzer, which is no longer in production, is currently only operated by national service battalions, added the serviceman, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Next-Gen Howitzer high-mobility weapon system, operated by a three-man crew, is envisaged to be introduced from next year.
There were two other incidents that led to deaths in the past year.
In April last year, Corporal First Class Dave Lee Han Xuan, 19, from the 1st Guards Battalion, died close to two weeks after being admitted to Changi General Hospital for heatstroke.
In November last year, Corporal First Class Liu Kai, 22, died after a Bionix vehicle reversed into the Land Rover he was in. An army-wide safety timeout was declared after the incident at Jalan Murai Training Area.
• Additional reporting by Vanessa Liu