Six Singapore servicemen fined S$1,800 to S$4,500 over death of NSF Dave Lee

A photo of Dave Lee at his wake in 2018. — TODAY file pic
A photo of Dave Lee at his wake in 2018. — TODAY file pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 24 — Six Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen have been fined between S$1,800 and S$4,500 each in relation to the death of full-time national serviceman (NSF) Dave Lee, who died of heat injuries during training in 2018.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) announced the fines today, adding that court proceedings on the case have concluded.

Captain Tan Baoshu, the supervising officer of the fast march, was tried in civilian court under criminal law. He was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in January after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. He died in February.

Six other servicemen were charged in military court in February, for offences such as making unauthorised deviations to the lesson plan and meting out unauthorised punishment the day before the fast march.

Asked by TODAY about the penalties meted out to the six servicemen, Lee’s mother, Jasmine Lee, said: “If it takes a life to teach a lesson, then the penalties have to be significant enough to bring a stop to future bullying cases. A fine is definitely not sufficient in this case.”

The 49-year-old real estate agent said that whatever the conclusion to the case was, the family’s pain remains “lifelong”.

“(I) deeply miss Dave.”

Lee had succumbed to heat injuries following an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp on April 30, 2018. The 19-year-old spent more than a week in intensive care in hospital before he died.

A committee of inquiry convened to look into his death revealed that there was significant delay in evacuating Lee, as well as inadequate measures given on-site after the march.

The six servicemen who were dealt with in military court are:

● Second Sergeant Koh Ren Zhong, 26, the safety officer of the fast march. He was sentenced to a fine of S$1,800 for one charge of committing a negligent act endangering Lee’s life.

● Corporal (NS) Tan Jin Yang, 24, the medic for the fast march. He was fined S$4,500 after being convicted of two charges of committing a negligent act that endangered Lee’s life.

● First Sergeant Chia Zhi Xuan, 25, the conducting officer who made the unauthorised deviations to the lesson plan. He was fined S$2,500 for one charge of disobeying general orders.

● Third Sergeants (NS) Chng Pheng Heng, 22; Jonas Ang Kai Jie, 24; and Yep Ren Jie, 22. They were the section commanders who meted out the unauthorised punishment the day before the fast march. They were fined S$2,500 each after being convicted of one charge of disobeying general orders and another charge of abuse of authority. They were also demoted to the rank of Corporal.

In its statement, Mindef said that since Lee’s death, SAF has enhanced existing heat injury management and prevention measures to strengthen its protocols, including improving heat injury awareness for commanders and medics, and strengthening an open reporting culture.

SAF has seen a 40 per cent decline in the number of heat injury cases over the past two years and there have been no cases of heat stroke, the ministry added. — TODAY

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